How do an artist loving architecture and a local writer and bass player, a self-taught architectural historian, work together to tell the story of one of Saint-Paul’s most historic neighborhoods?
Create a coloring book, of course.
The project was spawned by years of Jeanne Kosfeld visiting lunchtime to design the grand old houses in Irvine Park – some built in the early 1850s. But her partnership with Richard Kronick, who led for years of visits to the architectural history of Irvine Park and other areas of the Twin Cities, gave the project its academic weight.
The result is a book showcasing 18 historic homes that is as historically detailed as it is fun to bring a paintbrush or colored pencil.
“I was like, ‘This is such a fun way to introduce people to a neighborhood, a neighborhood, an experience,” Kosfeld said of the coloring book. “And then learn architecture in an almost accidental way.”
She added, “It’s just fun. It’s not meant to be an outright academic book.”
Maybe not, Kronick said. But the project has been scrutinized by some of the area’s most knowledgeable experts, ensuring that the details of every home – from the Wright-Prendergast Greek Revival House to the Justus and Augusta Ohage House, a mix of Romanesque and Queen Anne styles. – are correct.
“We are told that in addition to the beauty of Joan’s designs, it is now the most accurate story of Irvine Park that exists,” Kronick said, attributing to local House history expert Jim Sazevich correcting the first inaccuracies.
Anders Christensen, a local painter who sits on the Preserve Minneapolis board of directors with Kronick, can vouch for his good faith.
“His knowledge of architecture is quite encyclopedic,” Christensen said. “But he uses terms and explains those terms in a way that people have a better understanding of buildings.”
Highland Park resident Arlene Alm said she and her husband were fans of old homes and the range of architectural styles in the area. Thanks to Kronick’s 15-20 tours of the Twin Cities, they also became his fans. They’ve visited Irvine Park three times, most recently this summer, using the recently released coloring book as a study aid.
“This one was different because I had the book with me,” Alm said. “The illustrations are excellent and really useful. But I’m not going to color them. I could give it to my grandson… but then I might not get it back.”
It was while taking one of Kronick’s tours that persuaded Kosfeld to approach her for the project, she said.
Kosfeld, a St. Paul-based artist who once headed the design department at the University of Alaska Anchorage, spent 18 years as a creative director at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. In her later years – she was there until 2015 – she spent hours of lunch in Irvine Park, sprawled out on the boulevards, and sketched the houses.
She approached Kronick in March 2020 to make sure the coloring book, with the information she had googled about these homes, was complete and accurate. This was not the case.
Kosfeld said: “He took a look and actually found out…”
Finished Kronick: “That I’d better rewrite this stuff.”
A year-long collaboration has begun, with Kronick, a local writer and musician who also maintains shelves filled with architectural history, providing details of Kosfeld’s illustrations.
“Neighborhood Architecture – Irvine Park St. Paul: A Coloring Book” was published in April. It is available from the Ramsey County Historical Society.
The project convinced Kosfeld and Kronick to continue their partnership. Another coloring book – on the history of St. Paul’s Rondo – is in preparation.