The Wales House was originally designed by prolific architect Harry Wild Jones and built in 1910 for John Florin Downey, who lived in the house with his family for 11 years. Professor Downey was Dean Emeritus of the College of Science, Literature and the Arts at the University of Minnesota, where he taught for 34 years. A veteran of the U.S. Civil War, he wrote books on algebra and astronomy and was named by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to head Chinese Relief Work. He was a passionate Peace activist and served as an observer at the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
The house was subsequently purchased by Alpha Xi Delta sorority in 1921. The sorority was home for many female students for 40 years. During this period, the home had many changes including an addition of rooms and the front stone parlor room. In 1961, Alpha Xi Delta left the U of M.
The house was then sold to the Evans Scholars, a men’s fraternity founded in Chicago by golf legend Chic Evans. Members of Evans Scholars are golf caddies and exceptional students, and each member receives a full scholarship for study. In the 1970’s the Evans Scholars built a new home on the northwest corner of 5th St. S.E. and 10th Ave. S.E. This house was then sold to Sigma Phi Epsilon, another men’s fraternity. They occupied the property for 20 years. The house suffered significant hardship and deterioration for a number of years. They then bought a property at the northeast corner of 4th St. S.E. and 10th Ave. S.E. where a house had been destroyed by fire. They rebuilt it, and now reside there.
In 1994, Kelly and Julieanne Carver purchased the house. After much work, Kelly created and opened Wales House, named after ancestral family members. In 1997, they moved in with their two children Lucia and Peter.