Miracle Mansion includes tea room, gift shop and (soon) bed & breakfast
Ten years ago, Rev. Carol A. Carroll, who was living in Idaho, came to Wadena to visit her daughter. She drove by the mansion, which had been sitting vacant for 30 years. “The Lord laid it on my heart to restore it,” she says of that life-altering moment.
A few phone calls later, her daughter, Missy, real estate agent Marlene Stueve and Carol, were walking through the door of the mansion with Craig Folkestad of the Gores Company. Craig told Carol that the name of the place was the “Merickel Mansion.” Carol heard in her head, “Call it Miracle Mansion” for many miracles will happen here.” She faltered momentarily when she walked inside, seeing all the damage that was done by previous vandals and two fires. Ceilings were falling down, there was no water and no electricity. “Lord, you do not want me to do this!” She remembers that conversation with God. “But he laid it on my heart to do it. My mission is to restore it for the glory of the Lord. It is not about the money, or I would have left the first year. It is for the people and for unity.”
Carol is involved with Great Commission Church Corporation (GCC) in Bishop, Calif. Active in tent revivals and teen ministry, she was licensed and then ordained as a minister in 2004. After finding the Merickel mansion, she moved to Minnesota and eventually sold her Idaho home. On a wing and a prayer, she not only signed a purchase agreement on the mansion but also bought a house in Hewitt and a rental property. “I bought three houses in three days,” she says with some astonishment. “Walking in faith, I know the power of our Lord.”
Work on the mansion has had stops and starts over the years as funds and energy wax and wane. The infamous Wadena tornado also had a major impact, both bad and good. “We lost all of our hundred-year-old trees,” says Carol, and the clean-up from that was a big job in itself. The roof was also damaged. “We got a new roof and after that, completed the work on a new bakery, which opened Nov. 5, 2010.
“When it all started coming together, I would wake up in the morning hearing what I was to do that day. God is in every step of the way. We’re seeing God in action; one thing after another.”
Carol loves the roomy new bakery in what had been the garage. She spends every Wednesday making cookies, cakes and pies. She’s up at 4:00 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays to make the yeast breads, Danish and other delicacies for the bakery and tea room. Hours on Thursdays and Fridays are from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The tea room also serves Saturday breakfast from 7 a.m. to 12 noon.
Carol incorporates locally grown food in her menu as much as possible. All of the baked goods come directly from her kitchen. She orders 15 dozen eggs at a time from a local producer, buys local-spun honey, makes her own fruit fillings and jam, and is talking with a market about getting locally made sausage. Fresh produce will be purchased from her daughter, Melissa Erkenbrack’s A Better Way-CSA (Melissa’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org).
Carol says she’s been baking all her life. She grew up on a small farm and learned the value of hard work. She was the owner/operator of two deli-bakery shops and a cottage sewing business for over 20 years before coming to Minnesota. As a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, Carol knows the fine art of balancing a busy life. And she’s extremely grateful for the generous volunteers who have come into her life.
Don and Kay Sartori help in the tea room and kitchen. “Don does the dishes,” says Kay who helps out in many ways herself. Kay grew up in Wadena and had never been in the mansion before Carol became the owner.
When you walk into the Miracle Mansion, you will smell fresh baked bread and cinnamon rolls. The main level of the mansion is filled with handmade and collected objects.
“I’ve been collecting items since I’ve been in Wadena,” says Carol. Her treasures have come from local garage sales, estate sales and special things people have brought in. “I have to mention Barb Schellenberg,” says Carol, with Kay nodding in agreement. Carol has a knack for arranging things beautifully, both in the bakery and dining area that comprise the tea room.
Bob Zosel has also become invaluable in helping Carol and injecting new energy into the restoration of the mansion and her most recent project of turning three second-floor rooms into bedrooms for a bed and breakfast which she plans to have ready by next spring. Bob is working on the walls and the woodwork while Carol is still scrubbing at traces of fire damage, especially on the grand staircase leading to the bedrooms.
“The fires did extensive damage to the house but not enough that it can’t be restored back into the beautiful house that it once was,” says Zosel who spent 28 years building and restoring homes and other buildings in Florida. “We have to move everything to work on it and then move everything back (for tea room hours),” says Carol.
The stained glass windows over the staircase will be replaced with new designs from Genesis Stained Glass near Browerville. Gary and Mary Schultz have extensive experience in restoration of church windows and are the perfect fit to design these three tall windows as well as restore the original stained glass windows in the dining room, which now serves as the tea shop. “Those windows were sucked in by the fire,” says Carol, though they did not fall out of their lead channels.
Visiting the tea room over the next few months will give guests an opportunity to see a historic structure in the process of restoration. The home was built by William Reinhold Baumbach only seven years after he and partner Jacob Meyer came to Wadena and opened their general store “Baumbach and Meyer” in 1879. The railroad hadn’t even come to town yet (1891) though Wadena had been named the county seat. The county courthouse was under construction at the same time as the Baumbach mansion.
Baumbach and Meyer must have been a successful enterprise since the general store led Baumbach into banking. A strong wall safe installed under the entry staircase testifies to this prosperity though it seems a rather public place for a safe. With a double wall construction and two combination locks, the safe stands open for now since the combinations have been lost.
Baumbach sold the First National Bank and his home to Arthur Jesse (AJ) Merickel and Watson Delano Merickel in March of 1907. AJ lived in the home and then later on, his son Maurice lived there.
In addition to the bakery and tea room, the Miracle Mansion is slated to be open more frequently to host group luncheons and ministry events. The tea room can serve up to 35 people at one time. For information and reservations call 218-640-0474. Carol is considering expanding the hours but that will be determined after the B&B opens.
Holiday hours starting Nov. 29 through Dec. 24 will be Tuesday through Saturday, 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.
“And remember to bring in the kids for a free Christmas cookie,” said Carol.