The Gideon and Agnes Pond House
The historic Gideon and Agnes Pond House was built in 1856 on the bluff overlooking the Minnesota River. The centerpiece of the forty-acre Pond-Dakota Mission Park, it’s located at 401 East 104th Street, in Bloomington, Minnesota. In 1995, the house was restored to its 1878 appearance. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tours of the house are available on Sunday afternoons from 1:30 – 4:00 p.m. Check calendar for specific tour times, and see our Programs page.
A Humble Log Cabin Beginning
In 1843, Samuel and Gideon Pond established the Oak Grove Mission on the site to be near Chief Cloudman’s village in the valley below. Gideon Pond and Eli Pettijohn built a double log house for the Pond families which also served as a school and chapel. The exact location on the site is unknown. Samuel Pond and his family lived on the site until 1847 when they moved to Prairieville (now Shakopee) to establish a mission station at the request of Dakota Chief Shakpe.
In 1851, the Dakota ceded most of their land to the U.S. government and began to move west to the land reserved for them along the Minnesota River. Soon after the treaty was signed, Gideon Pond filed a claim for 160 acres of land, including the Oak Grove Mission site under the provisions of the Pre-emption Act of 1841 (.pdf download).
Gideon built a small, one-story structure on a foundation of stones in 1852 to fulfill the requirements of the Pre-emption Act. The mission house likely did not qualify because it was built too early. This “Pre-emption house” contained a kitchen, pantry, and woodshed. After his wife Sarah died in 1853, Gideon and his seven children continued to live in the log house, using the Pre-emption house as a kitchen. But when Gideon’s second wife, former missionary Agnes Hopkins, and her three children arrived in 1854, the log house became overcrowded.
A Bigger Home for a Growing Family
During the summer of 1856, Gideon built a two-story, Federal-style brick house with help from his children, five masons and carpenters. Together, they molded more than 40,000 bricks using the sand and clay from the Minnesota River, fired them in a kiln built by Gideon and transported them up the bluff using oxen and a wagon. The new brick house was attached to the west side of the Pre-emption house which continued to serve as the kitchen.
The home’s foundation, exterior, and four chimneys are constructed of the handmade bricks. Six inches of air between the exterior and interior walls serves as insulation. The interior is wood-frame construction with plaster walls and ceilings. In 1910, the Pre-emption house was replaced by a two-story frame addition which included a kitchen, bedrooms, and a bathroom. The addition remained until restoration began in 1995. The Pond family barn was located southeast of the house. Demolished in the 1940s, the barn is believed to have been built in 1856 with timbers from the original log house.
Residents Over the Years
Pond family descendants have continued to occupy the Gideon and Agnes Pond House to this day. While the original claim parcel has since been divided, the forty acres on which the house stands remain relatively unchanged. From an architectural perspective, the house is one of the earliest, intact, Federal-style homes surviving in its original setting in Minnesota.
Restoring the Home
The rich history of Gideon Pond’s relationship with the Dakota motivated the descendants and friends to preserve the home and property. In 1970, the Gideon and Agnes Pond House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The City of Bloomington entered into an agreement for acquisition of the site in 1975, with a lifetime tenure provision for Gideon’s granddaughter, Belle Pond St. Martin and her husband, Edgar. After Belle’s death in 1992, the City of Bloomington and the State Historic Preservation Office of the Minnesota Historical Society undertook an Historic Property Reuse Study to determine the future of the property. Resulting recommendations were:
- Restore the 1856 Gideon and Agnes Pond House with a replica of the 1850s pre-emption house formerly attached to it.
- Replace the two-story, 20th century addition.
- Interpret the site from both the Native American and European American viewpoints.
The Institute for Minnesota Archaeology undertook an archaeological site study in 1993. A site master plan was developed, and, based on a recommendation from the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources, a State appropriation made the house restoration possible in 1996. The City of Bloomington continues to maintain the site.
Prairie Profiles: The Pond House
View the award-winning video, “The Pond House,” which traces the history of the house through its builder and his great-grandson, and focuses on their important relationship with the Dakota people. Filmmaker Barbara Britain produces history-related programs for her show “Prairie Profiles” which is shown on Suburban Community Channels in White Bear Lake, Minnesota every Saturday evening.
Pond House Facts
National Registry of Historic Places
Federal, two story
Gideon and Agnes Pond
401 East 104th Street, Bloomington, Minnesota 55420