Betsy's House History & Restoration | Tacy's House History & Restoration
Tacy's House - The childhood home of Frances "Bick" Kenney
Frances Vivian Kenney (Maud’s best friend and the character of Tacy in the books) was born July 13, 1891 in Minneapolis. She was the sixth of nine children born to Patrick and Rose Kenney. Patrick Kenney worked for the Singer Sewing Machine Company in Minneapolis and was transferred to the Mankato store in 1897. He purchased the house on 332 Center Street in 1898. The 11 member Kenney family lived in this little house until 1911 when Patrick was transferred back to Singer store in Minneapolis.
By 1920 junior high school English teacher, Ila Flathers had purchased the house. She met Maud Hart Lovelace (Betsy) and Frances Kenney Kirch (Tacy) in the fall of 1940 when they came to Mankato to visit their old neighborhood. In 1961, Ila hosted a tea party in her home when Maud and Frances and other members of the Betsy-Tacy crowd once again visited Mankato for Betsy-Tacy Day. Ila Flathers lived in this house until her death in 1965.
Read a description of Tacy's house.
Many changes were made to the house over the years since the Kenney’s resided here. The once white frame house, built in 1881, was given gold aluminum siding and both porches were enclosed, giving it quite a different appearance. The kitchen was remodeled and a half bath was added.
The most attractive feature of the house, the bay window in the dining room, has not been changed other than the adding of a window sill. Maud gives an accurate description of Tacy’s house in her book, Betsy and Joe:
The Kelly house at the end of Hill Street had seemed so big to Betsy once because it was so much bigger than the yellow cottage across the street in which she had grown up. But looking now, low and rambling, its white paint fadingunder the reddening vines, Betsy realized that it was somewhat small for the big family it had to house.
She had always loved the merry crowded house. Warmth and comfort enveloped her whenever she entered the door. All the Kellys loved her; they petted and teased her as though she were still a little girl.
Today only Mrs. Kelly was at home. A large, gentle woman with a tender mouth like Tacy’s, she sat with her mountain of darning in the window of the dining room. The big bow window was the heart of the house. Here Mr. Kelly sat in the evening with his newspaper, here on Sunday he played his violin. Here Betsy and Tacy used to cut out paper dolls, looking up at the overhanging hills. The Kelly house had few of the so-called modern improvements. It was lighted by lamps, there was a pump in the dooryard. But the views from the windows would have graced a castle.
In 1995, the Betsy-Tacy Society bought Tacy’s House and began restoration efforts. In 2001, the Hart’s house at 333 Center Street became available, and the Society arranged for its purchase, probably saving it from demolition given its poor condition. Tacy’s house (which was built in 1881) currently serves as the organization’s headquarters and a gift shop. Many items from the Hart/Lovelace family are on display here, as well as at the Blue Earth County Historical Society and the Lovelace wing of the library. These include Mrs. Ray’s brass bowl, a clock, corner cupboard, drop-leaf table, rocking chair and Tom Hart's footstool, along with letters, stories and articles by Maud and Delos Lovelace. The Society hopes to develop a visitor’s center focusing on Lovelace’s, work that emphasizes family and women’s history. Much-needed repairs to both houses are ongoing, supported by the generous donations of Society members.
Restoration of the Kenney house (Tacy’s house) began the fall of 2001.
Follow the restoration progress: