Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography, Family photo by Mandey Marie Photography
Just over the Horace bridge to the west of the Sheyenne River, is 220 acres of land that has been treasured by the Samuelson family for six generations. Nestled on the riverbank, the Samuelson’s 1889 homestead is part of the landscape that includes an abandoned river bed which is nothing short of postcard perfection. Jack and Rachel (Samuelson) Dwyer moved into the original homestead in 2009 after purchasing the home and part of the land from Rachel Dwyer’s grandmother, Sherry Samuelson. Like many family members before them, the Dwyers and their four kids eventually outgrew the home. Wanting to ensure the family’s legacy for years to come, the Samuelson family and the Dwyer family came up with a plan to keep the land in the family and also build the dream home their growing family desired.
Lost River Development Abundant trees and river views are just a couple of the reasons why the Samuelson family held tight to this coveted land. When Sherry Samuelson considered selling the land in 2015, Jack Dwyer, a lawyer who specializes in real estate and water law, delved in to see what they could do to preserve the land they had grown to love. Wanting to respect the Samuelson family heritage, he and Sherry Samuelson developed a plan that would give the Dwyers the space they needed and for the first time, allow other families to build their own legacy on the land.
“Sherry and I talked about it and we came up with a plan together to keep it in the family, and to develop it together,” said Jack Dwyer. “I would do the work and Sherry and her kids would maintain the ownership and try to create generational wealth and turn this change into a positive thing. The fact that three out of four of Sherry’s kids don’t get to enjoy the land, helped make the decision that financially it would be the right move for the family to develop it.” Samuelson saw it as a great idea. “I hope I do get to see all of it done. We have a lot of great memories here,” said Samuelson.
Close to Home
Unlike most development plans, this one would be a bit more sentimental. This new neighborhood consisting of 120 lots, needed to honor the Samuelson family and every street and park needed to be what they wanted for their own kids that would be raised on the land. “With the design, we worked very, very hard laying out the subdivision in a way that we can be proud of,” said Jack Dwyer. “We decided to create community space with walking trails and park space that’s centered in the development. The park will include a hockey rink, skating pad, warming house, shelter, and eventually two big playgrounds. There’s also a gazebo, soccer field, tennis court, youth baseball field and basketball court in the works.”
With the new layout of the subdivision, Jack Dwyer and Sherry Samuelson opted to create lots for all families, designating space for entry-level homes, mid and luxury homes. Lots are protected by the Sheyenne River diversion and range from $19,900 to $174,900. Currently, 30 lots in the first phase are sold with an additional 40 lots optioned to custom builders.
From Classic 1889 to Modern Day Mid-Century
For the Dwyers, they felt honored to be able to move onto the original homestead back in 2009. ” It’s a very special spot and really the best setting,” said Jack Dwyer. “We’ve always said that we have the best yard in Fargo.” “We haven’t had the greatest house and we didn’t have a garage or closets in the original homestead, but we had the best patio and really the most beautiful setting,” said Rachel Dwyer. “For years, we were trying to figure out a way to maybe make enough money to buy the whole place, and keep it forever,” said Jack Dwyer.
Building new was not the first plan the Dwyers had discussed. They had initially looked into remodeling the original house, so they had an architect draw up a floor plan which would then fix the original brick foundation. “Our bids came back basically what we spent on the new house, and we’d still be left with a house with mouse droppings in the wall, poor insulation and no ductwork,” said Jack Dwyer.
Despite a few setbacks from age and wear, the Dwyers were very happy with the home for many years. “We do love it, and we put a lot of energy and care into the original home. We put in new flooring, wall coverings and windows,” said Rachel Dwyer. “ It was kind of funny because my mom had done the same thing here in the early 90s. So, each person that lived here put their own twist on the house. With three kids it was starting to feel tight, but then when we had our fourth child and it got hard to find places for everything. I really was starting to yearn for my kids to have a nice, big place to play, but also a space for them to relax.”
History in the Making
Edward and Louisa Samuelson bought the original homestead in April of 1891. After Edward passed away in the early 1930s, Louisa Samuelson lost the land to a bank in a mortgage foreclosure in 1943. Edward and Louisa’s son and Rachel Dwyer’s great-grandfather Didrick Samuelson, who worked for the Horace Post Office for over 40 years, and his wife Mamie, were able to save up enough money to purchase the land back from the bank in 1948 and keep the land in the family.
“I remember the first time I came across that bridge, I thought, am I going to another country?” laughed Sherry Samuelson. “Uncle John who once lived here, I don’t think he had ever been further than Minnesota, and that was only a couple of times. Other than that, he didn’t go off of the farm.”
Didrick and Mamie Samuelson sold the land to their son Edward Samuelson and his wife Sherry Samuelson in 1965, who placed the land into a trust. For Sherry and Edward Samuelson, they would live in the upstairs of the 1889 home, a space that had been renovated into an apartment for prior family members. Her in-laws then resided on the main level of the home. Sherry Samuelson had often thought of Edward’s parents as her own. After raising two children in the upstairs apartment, anticipation of a third had them moving to a larger home in Fargo.
After Edward and Sherry were divorced in 1978, she decided she could not take the farm away from him, so she suggested he keep the acreage. When a neighboring 50 acres of wooded land came up for sale in 1997, Sherry purchased the additional acreage. Sherry Samuelson eventually purchased the Samuelson land from her ex-husband Edward Samuelson in 2006, and she purchased an additional 60-acre tract from another neighboring landowner in 2006. In the end, with a goal to keep the land in their children’s lives, Sherry Samuelson would end up the owner of 220 acres of untouched nature and the original farmstead.
The Lost River Route
In this area where the original house stands, there will soon be a cul-de-sac with larger lots. The original homestead will be taken out, but the barn will remain, leaving a small piece of the Samuelson legacy for future homeowners to enjoy.
On a walk to the riverbank, Jack Dwyer showed us his favorite spots, including the land he bow hunts on and a canoe landing where he often fishes. Phase two, which is not yet begun, will likely include the picturesque, untouched land beyond the clearing. Taking us into the meadow past the cul-de-sac, Jack Dwyer explains that this is the abandoned riverbed where water once ran through, hence the name of the development, Lost River.
Building a New Heritage
Just past Lost River road, down a street named after Rachel Dwyer’s great grandpa Didrick Samuelson, the Dwyers have completed the build of their new home. For the design of their dream home, the Dwyers worked with Jason Carpenter of Carpenter Homes. Going for a transitional design, they chose to intermingle craftsman quality with mid-century modern appeal. Even Rachel’s grandma, Sherry Samuelson was in agreement. “I was really pleased when Jack and Rachel built this, they’ve done such a good job,” said Samuelson. “I thought of building out here, but oh, I’d get carried away,” she laughed.
Throughout the home, the Dwyers opted do their own design, choosing much of their furniture from Scan Design in Fargo, N.D. “We just chose the things that we have always liked. We had planned to go to the cities to buy much of the furniture from Room & Board, but once we went into Scan Design, we found everything we needed and decided not to leave town. They had so many great pieces.” They also searched high and low for an oil-brushed, white oak flooring they had seen on Houzz, finally spotting the elusive flooring in the JW Kitchens showroom.
“In all of the really modern houses you see white walls,” said Rachel Dwyer. “But, we wanted it to stand out against our white cabinets and white trim, so we did Egret White (Sherwin Williams) so there’s some subtle contrast. Our perfect trim is no trim, but that’s not really an option. Our builder loves craftsman trim, so his perfect trim is as much trim as possible, so we found this to be a pretty likable balance. It frames everything out nicely, but it doesn’t have that typical strong, top molding like craftsman does.”
“We were really inspired by mid-century modern and Scandinavian style,” said Rachel Dwyer of their new home. “When we looked through Houzz, we were always drawn to walnut and also a glossy white. We ended up having Poss Custom Cabinets do all of the cabinets in a white slab with a European overlay and walnut trim. Everywhere except the kitchen, we did walnut with our built-ins.” Sharing the same design preference, Rachel Dwyer and her grandmother both love contemporary styling. “I had a home in Seattle and I told Rachel, her hardware in the kitchen is the same as I had in my Seattle home,” said Sherry Samuelson.
For the unique countertop, the Dwyers worked with Northern Stone. “They were great to work with,” said Rachel Dwyer. “We chose a lightly-leathered granite, so it has a matte look without having the ridges.” Coordinating perfectly, the backsplash is a wider subway tile, stacked, also in a matte finish.
For the powder room, Rachel Dwyer chose mid-century modern lighting, penny round floor tile and a stunning tulip wall covering with Scandinavian flair. “We even borrowed some pieces like that vase from my grandmother, she has very modern taste, so it’s fun to bring those into our new home,” said Rachel Dwyer. “I think I got my love of modern design from her.”
Find the Finishes
Homebuilder- Carpenter Homes
Powder room wall covering – Scandinavian Tulips, Wayfair
Lighting – Wayfair
Powder room and kitchen backsplash tile – Imperial Flooring
Kitchen and bathroom cabinetry, family room floating shelves – Poss Custom Cabinets
Quartz powder room sink and kitchen countertop – Northern Stone
White Oak flooring – JW Kitchens
Appliances – Rigel’s
Island stools – Scan Design
Dining table lighting – Lowe’s
Exterior landscape design – Boyle Landscape Architects
Linear fireplace – Hebron Brick
Fireplace tile – Imperial Flooring
Sofa, desk, dining table, rugs, chair, artwork & coffee table – Scan Design
Office artwork – Rando
For the exterior, the Dwyers chose privacy fencing on the side, then open-style fencing on the back to preserve the view to the river. “Peter Boyle of Boyle Landscape Architects actually transplanted flowers from the original homestead, so a lot of them are my great grandmother’s flowers, ” said Rachel Dwyer.
“One of Jason’s ideas to customize this house was to bump out the platform outside of the base of the house in the stairwell. It really did change the look of the house on the exterior,” said Rachel Dwyer. “Jason called us while we were in France in June and said, you know with your high pitched roof, why don’t we put a bonus room up there. There was already an artificial window for exterior appeal, so we thought let’s bump it out over here and make it a playroom, then bump the other wall out and create another bedroom. That’s when we decided not to finish the basement. With our boys sharing a room, our older son can move up to the third level when he’s ready.”
Homebuilder- Carpenter Homes
Exterior landscape design – Boyle Landscape Architects
Irrigation – Aqua Lawn Sprinkler Systems
Siding – LP Smart Siding
The Dwyers second level consists of a master suite, laundry room, kids bathroom, and three kid’s rooms with spacious walk-in-closets.
The Dwyers found the laundry room’s quartz countertop as a remnant at Northern Stone. “We just lucked out at getting the exact size we needed,” said Rachel Dwyer. They even managed to salvage some of the wood flooring from the old homestead remodel, gathering enough to cover the laundry floor.
Upstairs in the kid’s bathroom, they leaned towards contemporary with a walnut linen divider and double under-mount sinks in quartz. “Since there’s no closet here and I didn’t want to lose space, I had Poss custom design a space for rolled towels,” said Rachel Dwyer.
Find the Finishes
Flooring, shower tile and penny round tile – Imperial Flooring
Lighting – Wayfair
Quartz vanity counters – Northern Stone
Master bedroom – Bamboo furniture, Scan Design
Custom glass shower door – Red River Glazing
Saving a bird’s-eye of the river for their master suite, the Dwyers bedroom is completed with Scandinavian bamboo and contemporary stylings.
Mod lighting sets a mid-century tone for the Dwyers master bath.
Inside their spa-inspired shower, they chose a black penny-round tile complimented by a stunning, wood-look tile from Imperial Flooring.
“It’s so special that our kids are the sixth generation to live on this land. The new house is just a really functional space for us and we’re still here on the family homestead.”
While Jack Dwyer has his own law firm, Dwyer Law, Rachel Dwyer has a 14-year career teaching French in West Fargo and currently at Sheyenne High School. They’ve been married for 11 years and have four children, Jesse 8, Dahlia 6, Mikey 3 and Sophie 1.
For information on Lost River Development, contact: