Judge Hollis R. Murdock built the original house in 1859 and lived there with his wife, Sarah Rice Murdock, and their adopted daughter, Alice Rice Murdock. It was a simple four-room house, which was expanded by 1862 with an assessed value of $750! In the 1870s, additional decorative features were added, including porches, an arched front door and dormer windows.
There was a second house on this property, owned by Cornelia Murdock, who was the first wife of Hollis’ uncle Henry Murdock. This house was located near the intersection of Second and Laurel Streets, as indicated on the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of 1884. The house was moved in 1903 to 114 East Linden Street, where it was converted to apartments. This was a fairly common practice at that time.
Hollis Murdock was a well respected attorney and probate judge, who served in the Minnesota state legislature and as Mayor of Stillwater for one term from 1885 - 1886. He served as a director of the Stillwater and St. Paul Railroad Company and as a director of the First National Bank of Stillwater for many years.
The Murdock family and home were instrumental in formation and growth of the Stillwater Public Library. According to the library association records, Judge Murdock and Judge McCluer ‘pledged themselves as security’ for a loan of $100 borrowed to establish the library. Initially, government documents were sent to their law oces and homes for safekeeping, which required the establishment of a library. With the loan, books were purchased and were available to library members for a fee. Hollis Murdock served as president of the library association through 1890. Many interesting facts about the early establishment of the library may be found online in the actual record books of the Stillwater Library. In the association’s reports, there is a mention of a lawn party held at the Murdock residence on July 2, 1895.
The property was sold in 1910 to John and Annie Casey. The 1911-12 City Directory shows John Casey as superintendent of the Western Shoe Company which operated out of the state prison.
In 1914, Hollis & Mildred Comfort purchased the home. Hollis Comfort’s father had been in law practice with Hollis Murdock. Following Mr. Comfort’s death in 1921, the home went into foreclosure and stood vacant for several years. Mildred Comfort went on to become a well-known author of children’s books, romances and biographies. She later confessed that she couldn’t bear to revisit the house at 210 E. Laurel because “the memories would break my heart.”
In 1925 the property was purchased by Hjalmar (H.O.) and Christine Peterson. The home remained in the Peterson family for almost 58 years. Peterson ran a commercial printing business from the home, and he contributed a weekly column to the former Stillwater News. He was involved in politics, mostly notably in the Nonpartisan League and the Farmer-Labor Party. Mrs. Peterson maintained beautiful flower and vegetable gardens.
The Petersons’ youngest child, Harry, and his wife, Ruth, purchased the home after the death of his parents in 1957. Harry, Ruth and their family opened their home to many foster children. The home also served as the gathering place for extended family Christmases and other special occasions for many years.
Harry Peterson also was active in the community and was involved in politics for much of his life. He served on the Stillwater City Council for two terms and as Stillwater’s Mayor from 1982 through 1986. He served as the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry under Governor Al Quie until his retirement in 1981. In 1982, following his retirement, the Petersons decided to sell the home as it had become too large for them to manage.
Interesting to note is that in 1981 the city denied a vote for a special use permit for a potential buyer to operate a tea house for private parties.
The home was purchased in September of 1982 by Ahmed Al-Dainy and Kristin Jensen. Al-Dainy, who also owned the property known as the “Alhambra,” part of the William Sauntry estate, a few blocks to the west. The Al-Dainy family never resided in the home, however Mrs. Al-Dainy’s grandmother, Nell Larson, lived there for several years.
In 1988, the city issued a Special Use Permit for the house so that it could be operated as a Bed and Breakfast. Dave Belz operated the B & B, known as the Overlook Inn, for several years. He ran a floral business from the home during that time.
In September of 1990, Clyde and Mary Jorgenson purchased the property. The house was completely gutted, the barn was removed and a 3-car garage and other additions were added during the extensive remodeling project. The finished house had a total of 7900 square feet with six bedrooms, each with a private bath, plus two additional bathrooms. The Jorgensons operated it as a B&B until 1995.
The home was purchased in 1995 by Doug and Deborah Thorsen, who operated it as a B & B, known as the Laurel Street Inn, until 2004.
In 2004, Molly Rice and Dan Priebe purchased the house and converted it once again to a one-family home for their family.