Edwin and Harriet Phipps owned the farm from 1906 to 1934. Their son-in-law and daughter Martin and Mildred Grill owned it from 1934 until 1976.
The Phipps raised grain, vegetables, and flowers, but were especially known for asparagus. Edwin earned the title "Asparagus King of Hennepin County." The Grills opened the first of a series of vegetable stands in 1933 on nearby Highway 212. A large peony bed planted by Harriet Phipps in about 1920 still survives on the east side of the house. Both families hired workers to assist with the farm. Some of the workers roomed in other houses that stood nearby.
Changes to the farm
In 1917 or 1918 a kitchen addition was constructed which included an upper story for hired help. A large brick "ice box" was added to the east wall of the kitchen in the 1920s or '30s for flowers and household food. Electricity was installed in the house in 1930, the first bathroom in 1946. A dairy barn was built by the Grills in 1940; the cement block milkhouse was built at an unknown date to store milk. A landing strip constructed on part of the farm in 1937 was used by U.S. Navy planes stationed at old Wold-Chamberlan Field to make practice approaches. Pappy Grill sold the landing strip in 1943 to American Aviation Corp., who named it Flying Cloud Airport, a name they felt related to
flying and local Indian heritage. The Metropolitan Airports Commission purchased the airport in 1948. The farm was sold to the City in 1976 for parkland.
"The peony bed has been there for over 60 years. Mother put in 500 plants. There wasn't another bed like it in the county. She sold flowers in season." -Mildred Grill in a 1980 interview
Edwin Phipps came to Minnesota in the 1890s from Calais, Maine and worked as a teamster. He married Harriet Sprague in 1894 in Minneapolis.
Harriet was a teacher in the Stillwater and Minneapolis City School Districts, and a graduate of the S.S. Curry School of Expressions in Boston. She was active in civic causes, and enjoyed poetry and flower gardening.
Harriet and Edwin Phipps had two daughters, Helen and Mildred. Mildred married the Phipps' hired man Pappy Grill, and purchased the farm in 1934.
The Grills had no children and depended on extended family for much of their seasonal help. Pappy had a reputation for paying very little to hired hands, family included, and one nephew recalled that Pappy charged him for an apple taken off the truck after a long day of work.
An interview with Mildred Grill, 1980
Q. Did you have a cistern in the kitchen?
A. Yes, there was a cistern under the east end of the kitchen. There was a cistern pump attached to the sink.
Q. Do you remember the sliding doors in the kitchen?
A. Yes. Mother used them. When we started feeding a crew of hired men, we put them upstairs.
Q. Was the area above the kitchen used?
A. Yes. That is where the hired men slept.
Q. Where did Mr. Cummins have his experimental orchards?
A. There was a large orchard south of the road by the old log cabin. North of the house was a big orchard. There wre many different kinds of apple, peach, pear, plum and cherry tree. He did a lot of grafting. There were two or three kinds of fruit on some trees. He had a beautiful grape arbor.
Q. Did you have a wood lot?
A. Yes, north of the house going down to the lake was a beautiful wooded area. You could find all kinds of trees there. There was a heavy stand of butternut trees.
Q. What use did you make of Staring Lake?
A. We had the best beach on the lake. People used to come to our place to swim and picnic.