Joseph Forepaugh and Molly the Maid


Joseph Forepaugh, who was an entrepreneur that made his fortune in the dry goods business, built a beautiful Victorian style home in 1870 in what is now part of the Irvine District. It is said that the place at 276 Exchange Street was built for Joseph’s family – so that they would have a comfortable life.  The house had a basement, three floors and beautifully landscaped land around it. It was also one of the first homes in the city to have running water.  Joseph, most likely wanting his family to have the best of all things, hired servants to help with the duties of keeping the home. Unfortunately, Joseph fell for a young maid named Molly and the two of them and had a torrid affair – one that Joseph’s wife Mary found out about.
Mary gave Joseph an ultimatum, he must choose his family or he must choose the maid, he couldn’t have both. Joseph chose his family and ended the affair with the maid. A pregnant Molly was so upset that she hung herself from the third floor window. In 1886 the Forepaugh family decided to sell the house and move to Europe, probably to get as far away from the scandal as possible. Civil War General John Henry Hammond bought the house, and the Forepaugh family was free to rebuild their relationship away from the house and the memory of Molly. Three years later in 1889 the family decided to return to Saint Paul, building a home on Summit Avenue within an eye shot of his beloved first home.
Joseph suffered from a horrible depression after his return from Europe. On July 7, 1892 he walked down the road from his house and shot himself in the head. No one knows for sure why he decided to take his own life, but the popular theory that has grown as time has gone on has centered on Molly and the incredible grief that Joseph must have felt after her death.  (Geeky blog writer’s note: Some books and Web sites have Molly killing herself due to Joseph’s death, but that doesn’t make sense – especially because most stories include her being pregnant.) The newspapers talked about his money concerns and how he never thought he would have enough to make it. They felt his depression surrounded that versus anything to do with stories about love and love lost.
The history of the home after that followed the history of the District. It fell into disrepair in 1970s and was nearly torn down and replaced with high rise apartments. Being added to the National Historic registry saved it from being destroyed. After many different owners, the home became a high scale restaurant in 1983 and was recently sold to new owners who made a nearly two million dollar investment to return it to its Victorian charm.
There are many (current) stories about Joseph and Mary haunting the restaurant by both employees and customers. Are they true? Who knows, but it does make for a pretty good story. 
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