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Couple returns to former homestead
Who says you can’t go home again?
A North Kildonan couple has done just that. Jacob Vanderhorst grew up on a 25-acre homestead that lies to the east of the Red River, just south of the present-day Chief Peguis Trail.
The 89-year-old lived on the site with his family until he was 24, when he married 20-year-old Shirley Conley and built a house on the property on Essar Avenue. They moved to East St. Paul in 1959 after purchasing 26 acres of their own, but moved into the Edgewood Estates apartment block last year. They can see their old house from their fifth-floor apartment.
"I was born right here, as were the other eight children in the family," Vanderhorst said.
When Vanderhorst’s father, a gardener, decided he wanted to retire, he decided to sell the land for $68,000 to a group of buyers, who later flipped the land to the group that eventually developed the Edgewood Estates building.
Vanderhorst disagreed with his father’s decision at the time, and was shocked to learn that just a few years after the sale, the land was valued at several million dollars.
"I was somewhat disillusioned (to find out about the sale)," Vanderhorst said. "I’d spent 10 years working for my father for next to nothing. I’d done a lot of work, and all of a sudden, he’s going to sell the place from under me."
The Vanderhorsts moved to East St. Paul and lived there for 53 years. However, they visited their old home often, as Vanderhorst’s parents moved into the building soon after its completion, and brother, Charles, followed.
"(It is) said you should move into an apartment block before you get too old because otherwise the adjustment is very difficult," Vanderhorst said. "There was no adjustment moving into the Edgewood Estates because we felt like we were back home."
Vanderhorst said though he wasn’t initially thrilled with how the development on the acreage came to be, he now appreciates the opportunity to once again live on the property where he grew up.
"I have very fond memories of this property. I learned here to swim in the Red River, to dive off the bridge," Vanderhorst said.
"And scare his wife!" Shirley chimed in.
Vanderhorst also recalls winning a race by a quarter-mile as a member of the Kildonan Rowing Club – only to later lose in the city-wide regatta.
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