coffee in the kitchen for over 140 years
Sheldon and Mary Smith moved from Pike, New York to Eden Prairie in 1857 when they were just 26 and 22 years old. The young couple lived in a small cabin by Duck Lake in their early years in Minnesota and moved into a beautiful red brick five-bedroom home in the early 1870s, which was built by Sheldon himself.
Today, we know their home as Smith’s Coffee & Café, but the house has many stories to tell about the generations who spent their days there when Eden Prairie’s rolling hills were home to just a small community and travelers came through the township by train.
Sheldon Smith was a farmer and held the position of Postmaster Depot Agent. He and Mary had three children together: Nettie, Amie, and Etta. In addition to raising their children in the home, the Smith’s frequently hosted guests, including teachers, preachers and travelers looking for somewhere to stay near the train depot.
Nettie died at the age of three in 1861, but Amie and Etta grew up in the house. We know from letters to and from the girls and their friends that much of their youth was relatable: they gossiped about their friends, shared excitement over new babies in the neighborhood and enjoyed visits to Big Island and Minneapolis. Etta was frustrated that she had to stay at home and do chores while her older sister got to go to work at the depot like her father.
Etta died of tuberculosis when she was 16 and Amie got married and moved away to Montana, but Mary and Sheldon weren’t alone in their home for long. Amie’s husband, David Douglas, and Sheldon both passed away while Amie was in Montana, so she brought her baby, also named Sheldon, back to Eden Prairie and returned home to her mother. Amie also lost a daughter during her time in Montana.
Amie grew old in the house her father built. She became the well-respected “matriarch” of the town – someone her neighbors came to for advice about everything from money to raising children. She was indubitably the person to ask – she kept a well-maintained, large home that was equipped with lightbulbs and woodburning stoves by the time she passed away at 88. She raised an educated and successful son who lived to be 100.
The More family moved into the house in 1952. They added electricity and a furnace, but intentionally refrained from making any changes that would affect the integrity of the home. They built an add-on kitchen but made it intentionally different in appearance from the historic home, so passersby would know it was an addition.
Earl More was an active community member and welcomed visitors into his home for a tour and a cup of coffee. He and his wife, Helen, took immaculate care of the house. Because of their care and dedication to the historical home, the original floors, walls, windows, doors, shutters, and even the old wood porch are still intact. They sold their home to the City of Eden Prairie in 1985, contingent on their lifetime estate, and the city took over the house in 1999 after Earl’s death.
The 21st-Century Smith-Douglas-More House
The Heritage Preservation Commission and the Eden Prairie Historical Society took responsibility for the house and plans for its future. Although there was a movement to sell the house, it was protected by a petition led by the Historical Society.
The city still owns the house today and has found success in occupying it with coffee shops. The house was first open for business in 2002, with a Dunn Brothers settling there almost 130 years after the Smiths. The coffee shop has changed hands a few times, but in the last year has been reimagined as Smith Coffee and Café, an ode to the original residents.
In addition to serving as a gathering place for Eden Prairie’s current inhabitants, the Historical Society ensures that the Smith-Douglas-More House is a place to remember its storied past. They are currently preparing a historic timeline to donate to the house that will be displayed in the parlor. They also offer presentations and tours at the house regularly and have used it as a site for antique shows and fairs.
Thanks to Kathie Case at the Eden Prairie Historical Society. Visit edenprairiehistory.org