The Solomon G. Comstock House
Solomon G. Comstock completed his Victorian home on 8th Street in Moorhead in 1883. The stylish 11-room house stood as a symbol of his civic and business accomplishments and was where he and his wife Sarah Ball raised their three children, Ada Louise, Jessie May and George Madison. In 1974 the Comstock Historic House Society, a group of local advocates, formed to assist in the restoration of the home back to its 1883 appearance. The home opened to tours in 1980.
Backstory and Context
About Solomon G. Comstock (1842–1933)
Born and raised in Maine, Comstock earned his law degree from the University of Michigan in 1869. Following job opportunities with the railroads, he moved to Nebraska, Texas and Minnesota, finally settling in Moorhead in 1871. Three years later, in 1874, Solomon G. Comstock married Sarah Ball.
In Moorhead, Comstock established a successful law partnership and began a long career in politics. Committed to Republican ideals, Comstock served four terms as a state representative, one as state senator, and one term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Comstock was also a pioneer in local business, helping to drive the growth of Moorhead and surrounding regions. In 1881 he helped found the First National Bank of Moorhead. The following year he became a principal in the Moorhead Foundry, Car and Agricultural Works. Then in 1882 he joined with James J. Hill as an agent to obtain the right-of-way for the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railroad and to locate township sites along the proposed route.
In addition to business, Comstock was committed to developing educational opportunities within the community. In 1882 he helped to build the Bishop Whipple School in Moorhead which eventually became Concordia College. He also donated land and sponsored a bill in the Minnesota legislature that led to the establishment of Moorhead Normal School, which became Moorhead State University.
About Sarah Comstock (1845-1941) and children
At home, education remained a central focus for the Comstock family. Sarah, an active member of Moorhead society, was a charter member of the Moorhead Women’s Club in 1893 and secured a donation from Andrew Carnegie to help build the town's library in 1905 - 1906. Her eldest daughter, Ada Louise, born in 1876, embraced the ideals of education and secured a legacy of her own. Graduating from Smith College in 1897, she went on to earn a master’s degree at Columbia College in 1899. Remaining in academics her entire career, she became the first dean of women at the University of Minnesota in 1901, served as academic dean at Smith College from 1912 to 1922 and became the ﬁrst full-time president of Radcliffe College.
Jessie May, born in 1879, attended the University of Minnesota and Radcliffe College before becoming a school teacher in Minneapolis. Jessie May retired to Moorhead where she cared for her aging parents. She died in the home in 1951. George Madison was born in 1886. He graduated from Harvard University, served in World War I, eventually returning to Moorhead to become a businessman in banking, farming, and real estate. George and his wife, Frances, lived in the family home for a few years after Jessie's death, eventually donating it to the Minnesota Historical Society in 1965.
About the house
The architectural ﬁrm Kees and Fisk of Minneapolis and Moorhead designed the home in the popular style of the time, blending Queen Anne elements with those of English designer Charles Locke Eastlake. The home is characterized by a profusion of spindle work porches, high patterned chimneys and poly-chromed siding and trim. Situated on one of the highest points in the city, the property included an ice house, tool room, food storage room and a barn for the family’s three horses and three carriages. Solomon Comstock spent 51 years in the house, his wife Sarah, 59.
Throughout the years, the interior of the home remained almost unaltered, with the exception of the bathrooms. Visitors can admire the oak doors and windows, the oak stairway with a butternut banister and the three first floor mantelpieces also made of butternut. A lovely parquet border is visible in the dining-room floor.
In 1974 the Comstock Historic House Society, a group of local advocates, formed to assist in the restoration of the home back to its 1883 appearance. The home opened to tours in 1980.