Famed architect’s personal home given new life

Oct. 18, 2018

John Koch knocked on the door and ended up with a friendship that led him to his latest home restoration project.

On the other side of the door at 700 S. First Ave. was Donna, the longtime owner of the Queen Anne home built in 1885 as the personal home for Wallace Dow. The architect designed several buildings in the late 1800s, including the Minnehaha County Courthouse at Sixth and Main, the South Dakota State Penitentiary and Old Main on the USD campus.

“We became friends over the course of about six months,” said Koch, the owner of John Koch Construction, who had renovated another property across the street.

“I would randomly stop by and bring her meals on wheels, and we would chat in her living room. She had some great stories, and I think she liked the company.”

Donna, in her 90s, lived in one unit of what had become a fiveplex and rented the other four. Managing the tenants was becoming more than she could handle.

“She really loved what we did across the street, so she liked the idea of selling to us,” Koch said.

When they started construction this spring, “the property was in really tough shape,” he continued.

“It had been carved up from its original state, and many repairs had been neglected or patched over the years.”

A few weeks before closing, a space heater caught fire.

“So needless to say, we had a major project on our hands.”

About six months later, here’s what’s become of the home:

“I love how it turned out,” Koch said. “It has so much character. The vision not only came together, but it evolved as the project went on. We made some nice updates inside and even managed to add a nice outdoor patio area for the tenants to enjoy.”

The structure and bones of the home “were really well done originally,” he added.

The complex part was updating the home while being true to its history. Koch and his team peeled layers of vinyl back, patched wood floors, removed old trim and reinstalled it.

“During the process, you have many days where you feel like you’ve gone backwards. It’s a nice feeling once you have the finish line in sight.”

He wrapped it up recently, and it’s ready for tenants. It’s now a fourplex and was leased months before construction was done.

“The tenants put a lot of trust in us leasing a property that had exposed studs and sawdust everywhere. That for me was the most rewarding,” Koch said. “We have a nice mix in the building. One of the tenants is retired from the military, and the other three tenants are young professionals. I believe two of them walk to work downtown.”

The momentum of downtown has had a positive effect on surrounding neighborhoods, he added.

“I grew up in central Sioux Falls, so for me to see these neighborhoods heading in a positive direction is awesome. I think the future is really bright for the All Saints and Cathedral neighborhoods.”

Koch also has found his next restoration project: A home across from Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center.

“We both agreed that restoring it rather than demolishing it was the better choice for the neighborhood.”

The plan is to start renovations this winter and finish in early summer.

“Without great help, these projects would be nothing but a vision,” Koch said. “I’m thankful to have such a great team. We really enjoy what we do.”

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Famed architect’s personal home given new life

New residents are moving into the historic home of architect Wallace Dow, which has been entirely renovated.

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