backroads dinehart house

Christopher and Flora Dinehart moved from Chicago to Slayton in 1882, the year the town was platted, because they thought it was a good place to open a bank. Nine years later they hired Minnesota architect Frank Thayer to design a house for them. The result — a mixture of Queen Anne and Stick style architecture — was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Today it is owned by Murray County and managed for the public’s use by the Murray County Historical Society.

Rose Schmit, Site Coordinator and Collections Manager, said there are three reasons it is on the Register. Two are the house itself, its architectural style and the fact that self-taught Minnesota architect Frank Thayer designed it. However, most of the historical significance comes from its connection to the Dineharts. Christopher and Flora Dinehart were instrumental in building Slayton with the bank and other investments. They were also very invested in the education and social welfare of the town, Schmit said. They made it the center of Murray County.

Christopher invested in agriculture as well, owning farmland privately and through the Murray County Land Company, raising Morgan horses, and cultivating wheat that won an award at the World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

The Dinehart’s son, Clarence, died of appendicitis at age 33 while serving as Minnesota’s State Treasurer. Their daughter, Florence, married Harvey Holt and raised their three sons in the house. The middle son, Judge John Holt, was the last family resident. On his death in 1993, the house and its furnishings were sold at an estate sale, but when the house was again for sale in 2007, Murray County purchased it.

While the family’s possessions were lost through the sale, the Historical Society has furnished the house with period furniture from their collection, and many features remain from the Dinehart days. A diamond frame in the family parlor displays a portion of that room’s original wallpaper, which the Society came close to matching. The dining room walls and ceiling have colorful pressed tin, and there is a built-in sideboard decorated with wood carvings. The bathroom has the original pink marble sink. Stained-glass windows in memory of Clarence grace the foyer and stairway.

In these pandemic times, the Dinehart-Holt House has not been open to the public. But as restrictions ease, that may change. For updates on opening, as well as information on events and tours, visit www.murraycountyhistoricalsociety.org, or facebook.com/murraycountymuseum.

In normal times, the Historical Society has programs at the house throughout the year, continuing the hospitality for which the Dinehart and Holt families were known. Tours are available at other times.

Slayton has moved on since the time of the Dinehart and Holt families, but their significance to the community is remembered and celebrated through the Dinehart-Holt house.    

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