The Houston House, a beautiful bonanza farm home, was built by David H. Houston in 1881 near Hunter, ND. Houston was a Scottish immigrant, farmer, poet, and inventor. Because his first house was destroyed by a powerful wind storm, this house included a storm cellar, 2” by 6” supporting timbers and the largest nails that he could find.
The house was an elegant home with maple floors, cherry and oak wainscoting, a walnut staircase leading to the second floor, high ornamental ceilings and large bay windows. The original cost to build this house was estimated to be $7,000. Houston installed a new type of heating system in the basement, a hot air furnace. The house was heated by means of metal conduits and air registers. It even has a bathroom which was uncommon in any house at this time.
David Houston is best known for his photographic inventions. He sold the rights to manufacture and sell his patented roll film camera to William H. Walker for $700. Walker sold his rights to Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company of Rochester (Eastman Kodak). George Eastman noted that Houston “had the most uncanny genius for camera invention that I have ever known.” Conflicts arose when Houston designed improvements to his camera and sold them to Eastman competitors. It is rumored that Houston becam so disillusioned over his treatment by Eastman that he ordered all his photograic inventions and cameras destroyed.
Houston married Anni Laurie Pencille on April 26, 1888. She was an exceptional musician and was known as “The North Dakota Songstress.” They had one son, David Jr., born 1889.
The original house was twice the size it is now. The main part that you see was the Houston’s home. The other half housed the kitchen and was where the staff lived. Eventually the house was divided and the staff’s quarters were removed across the road. Be sure to check out the model of how this bonanza farm looked inside the house.