« Get those kids off the street: A history of youth centers in West Duluth | Main | Temporary tenants unclear on home’s century of history »

Superfan goes to super lengths

By MARK WARNER
DCN Correspondent

RELATED CONTENT: Bob Dylan: A rock legend's history with Duluth

Sometimes being a superfan causes one to do unbelievable things. Like wait in the pouring rain all night for tickets, drive hours cross country to see a 90-minute show or, as in Bill Pagel’s case, buy a house on eBay.

To say that this was just a house would be an understatement. This was Bob Dylan's original house. Dylan had only lived in Duluth for six years before moving to Hibbing. This was the house where the face of folk music was born. This is the city where the voice of a generation found its early inspiration.

And there it was on eBay. Dylan's house was up for grabs in Duluth.

The house was built in 1909 and when Pagel saw this ideal collectible up for sale in 2001, he pounced on it. Unfortunately, a small problem stood in the way of a happy ending to achieving ultimate fandom; he lost the bidding by $100.

Pagel’s dream of home ownership started when Kathy Burns wanted to end hers (SIDEBAR: Previous "Dylan House" owners). Burns, who lived in Minneapolis and had always been a Dylan fan bought the house after originally hearing about it on CNN. In fact, she was quoted saying she felt it could “make a great museum.? Unfortunately, this never came to be. After leaving for Maryland, Burns decided to put the home up for sale on eBay as an "experiment?.

The experiment proved to be successful. After being labeled as “a must have for the ultimate die-hard Dylan fan.? The house sold for $96,400-- higher than the asking price of $85,000, but not to the superfan.

It was Stephen Rouff of Minneapolis who appeared to have won the big prize. Luckily for Pagel, a legal issue arose and the initial agreement became void. Pagel got the house, and all was right.

After all, nobody has earned this marvelous piece of memorabilia more than Bill, according to local Dylan expert John Bushey.

“Bill Pagel’s probably got the biggest Dylan collection of anybody in Minnesota now, if not the world,? said Bushy. “His Web site will have a review for any Dylan show in the world up in two hours.?

Bushey knows a thing or two about collections. In addition to hosting a Dylan-based radio program for nearly 17 years, he recently sold his entire Dylan collection to the city of Hibbing. His used to be the largest; now Pagel holds that record.

“Mine was big, but now Bill’s got a little bit of everything,? said Bushey. “He even lives on Bob Dylan Drive.?

Coincidentally, the Duluth home resides mere blocks from Bob Dylan Way, the Duluth version of Hibbing’s Dylan Drive.

The house, that sits at 519 N. Third Ave., shows that great things do arrive in small packages. On the outside it looks like any other in Duluth’s Central Hillside. From the distance of an unanswered doorway, the inside appears unspectacular as well. With its creaky deck and chipping peach exterior, one would never expect that an American icon once learned to walk there.

Despite these obvious flaws, the house sold for $96,400-- $10,000 more than the asking price.

dylanhouse.jpg
Bob Dylan’s family lived in the upper portion of this Duluth duplex built in 1909.
(Photo by Mark Warner)

“When you look at the historical value of a place like that, location is all that keeps the price that low,? Bushey said. “In a New York or L.A., that house goes for way more. There’s just not as much appeal to Duluth.?

That did not matter to Pagel. After buying the house, he left his pharmacy job in Madison, Wis., for a similar position in Hibbing. Several random door were paid to the house. While Pagel was never present for further comment, Bushy guessed that the new pad played a role in the move.

Today the house operates as a half-occupied duplex. In the unused upstairs portion, it has long been rumored that young Dylan engraved his initials inside. If true, that would have been an amazing feat of underage spelling for a 6-year-old Dylan. Almost as amazing as the length a superfan will go to feel closer to his hero.