Lewis Harrington, one of the founding members of Hutchinson, built the house after the town site was discovered in 1855. Harrington was born in 1830 in Ohio and graduated from Ohio State University in 1850 as a civil engineer. After graduating, he surveyed for railroads in Ohio and Pennsylvania until a visit to Minneapolis prompted him to move to Minnesota in the fall of 1855. Harrington was the first postmaster, surveyor, and hotelkeeper in Hutchinson, and was later elected to the Minnesota State Legislature for two years.
Built in 1858, the house remains the oldest structure in the city and one of the oldest in McLeod County. Although many other houses and buildings were burned in the Dakota Conflict of 1862, the house was spared. Local folklore asserts that Chief Little Crow wanted the house for himself.
On almost two acres, the Harrington/Merrill House, at 225 Washington Avenue West is set back from the street on the north side of Park Elementary School. The house had fallen to disrepair after suffering significant fire damage in February of 2002. The property was acquired by the City of Hutchinson late in 2003 through the tax forfeiture process. Since that time, City Staff and members of Historic Hutchinson, a local non-profit organization, have formed a committee to determine a plan for the historic site. There was a clean-up day on Saturday, April 24th, in which trash, brush, and fire-damaged materials were removed from the house and grounds. About 15 people, including City Staff, Historic Hutchinson volunteers, and neighbors, filled a 10-yard dumpster with debris.
Also in April, was a special visit from Charles Nelson of the Minnesota Historical Society’s State Historic Preservation Office. Mr. Nelson assessed the condition of the house, and let the Committee know they were on the right track. He suggested that the Committee decide on a period of restoration for the house, and develop a plan. It was very helpful to have his expertise and advice on this project.
This summer, volunteers from Historic Hutchinson will paint the house and carriage house thanks to a grant from the Southwest Minnesota Foundation’s Minnesota Beautiful Program and Valspar Corporation. The grounds will be maintained by the Parks Department and landscaping will begin.
The Harrington/Merrill Park Committee will continue to meet monthly at City Center to discuss short and long-range restoration plans for the house and grounds.