Scott hopes to breathe new life into 1861 McGregor home

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Deb Scott is in the process of fixing up her McGregor home, which was built in 1861. Many of the home’s original features, including pressed tin ceilings, patterned wainscoting, parquet floors, oak and cherry woodwork and stained glass windows, are still intact. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Scott is an avid big game hunter and has over 20 mounted heads displayed in her spacious home. These heads reside in the former owner, Jack Slyfield’s, office, the walls of which are covered in navigational maps. Scott hopes to add more showing where she’s taken hunting trips.

Some of the home’s features, like these stained glass windows and fireplace show Father Nagel’s influence on the house, which was built as the city’s first Catholic parsonage.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

“I’ve always wanted an old house,” said Deb Scott, who, late last year, purchased an over 150-year-old home in McGregor. 

Located at 318 Prospect Street, “The Barron House” was built by Father Nagel in 1861 as the city’s first Catholic parsonage. The church sat behind the house, where Scott’s garage currently resides. According to the “McGregor Historic Walking Tour Book,” Nagel sold the home in 1871 to Charles H. Barron, who inherited the E.R. Barron  and Company General Merchandise Store on Main Street. The most recent owners were Jack and Dawn Slyfield.

“There’s a lot of history in this house and city,” reflected Scott, who said that made purchasing the home attractive.

A 28-year U.S. Army veteran (including 10 years in the Reserves), Scott spent the last five years in Washington, D.C., working at the Pentagon, where she helped mobilize over 20,000 Reserve and National Guard personnel to locations around the world. 

During her career, Scott served in various positions, including Deputy S-3 and Executive Officer of two Transportation Battalions, Rear Detachment Commander of a Transportation Battalion, Operations Officer of a Division Headquarters and in the Army G-3 as a Mobilization Officer. While stationed with U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, she assisted with Hurricane Katrina rescue. 

Following Sept. 11, she mobilized her unit and moved to Fort Eustis, Va., for a year-long requirement. The Transportation Battalion stationed over 400 personnel from around the U.S. to escort the movement of civilian trucks hauling over 5,000 loads of military equipment. Scott made sure the deployed troops were well taken care of with hotel accommodations and monetary support.

Now retired to McGregor, where her parents, David and Carolyn Scott, also live, Scott said she’s looking forward to a slower pace.

“I’m excited about moving back,” she said. “Here, they call three cars going down the road a traffic jam.”

On Dec. 4, she began fixing up her new old house. With 17 rooms, it’s a big undertaking—one Scott said she’ll tackle one project at a time.

“I have to block time to work,” she said, mentioning she has to navigate around her job as general manager at Coaches Restaurant in Prairie du Chien along with other obligations. “I’m not going to do it all at once.”

Two weeks ago, window treatments were going up and patches of paint garnished several walls, test spots for the color to come. Work on the windows and floors is also on the horizon.

For Scott, it will be important to maintain the original details of the house, including pressed tin ceilings, patterned wainscoting, parquet floors and oak and cherry woodwork. Father Nagel’s influence can be seen through the use of stained glass windows and woodwork features reminiscent of those found on church alters.

“I like the old woodwork and trim,” she said. “The historical accents are what I love about this house. They’re so gorgeous.”

Some of the wainscoting is in rough shape, Scott said, so she’s hoping to find someone who can repair it.

She’s also learning to traverse the home’s floors, which are not flat.

“It’s just something you have to deal with when you have an old house,” she said. “Every day I find new things to do or new ways to do things.”

One room Scott said she’s especially excited to update is what was once Jack Slyfield’s office. As a veteran himself, Slyfield had the walls covered with navigational maps.

“I’d like to get more navigational maps showing all the places I’ve gone hunting,” said Scott, who’s an avid big game hunter and has over 20 mounted heads (and some whole animals) from all over the world displayed. She likes the space the house affords her to showcase them all.

Slyfield also left behind a plethora of woodworking equipment. Between her and her dad, who’s an accomplished woodworker, Scott said they’ll get a lot of work done.

Fixing up the house is something special, Scott said.

“You put the love and care into it because its yours,” she said. “I think this house was just waiting for someone to come in and take over.”

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