HIBBING — The iconic, two-story stucco home that provided young Bobby Zimmerman a shelter from the storm while growing up in Hibbing is now under the ownership of an avid collector and Bob Dylan enthusiast. Bill Pagel, a retired pharmacist and local resident for more than a decade, told the Hibbing Daily Tribune last week that he purchased the three-bedroom house at 2425 Seventh Avenue East — aka Bob Dylan Drive — from longtime owners Gregg and Donna French. Pagel said the purchase was done through a private sale facilitated by Village Realty and though he declined to share the purchase price, Zillow.com estimates the home at about $84,000, while Realtor.com estimates it at $105,000.
Pagel, originally from Chicago, also owns Dylan’s boyhood home in Duluth and is the creator of a website dedicated to sharing Dylan concert information, known as boblinks.com. His vast Dylan collection has been 50 years in the making and he recently told the HDT that he’s eager to connect with community members in acquiring more Dylan memorabilia and photos with the aim of turning the Hibbing house into a museum. A separate press release from Pagel stated that former homeowner, Gregg French, “who has known Bill Pagel for many years, said that he can think of no better person to become the next caretaker.”
With the home sale complete, Pagel agreed to an additional Q&A with the HDT.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you came across the home and how the purchasing process went?
I have known Gregg and Donna French for many years and have been wanting to buy the house for over a decade. As Gregg told me, he and Donna have enjoyed meeting and talking to the thousands of fans, musicians and authors who have visited the house over the years but have now decided that it's time to move on. Several weeks ago we finalized the sale.
Did you purchase the home because of its historical value or for another reason?
I purchased the house specifically because of its historical significance. Back in 2001 I purchased Bob Dylan's birth home in Duluth. I have spent a lot of time since then restoring the Duluth house to the way it looked when Bob lived there from his birth in 1941 until the family left Duluth and moved to Hibbing in 1947. Fans from all over the world have visited the Duluth house including people from England, France, Russia, Japan, China, Australia and at least 50 other countries. Several years ago an official from the U.S. State Department brought a large group from South Korea who were making a documentary over to see the Duluth house.
Will you be moving in, or do you have other plans for the property?
I do have another home in Hibbing and I won't be moving into the house right away, but I will be doing restoration work on the house in the meantime. I intend to paint the house the color it was originally when the Zimmerman family lived there starting in 1948. Hopefully there will be a local museum located here in Hibbing or Duluth or maybe both. I would appreciate the help and support from people living in the area who may have early photos of Bob or his family or the house, early writings or anything else that may be of interest to include in a future museum.
You have a website dedicated to Dylan — what would you say is the reason you are such a fan?
I do have a website boblinks.com, which I started in 1995 and has become quite popular with over 41 millions visits on the page counter. I try and keep the Dylan community informed on Bob's upcoming tours and I post the set list and reviews after each of Bob's shows.
I have been a fan of Bob's music for over 50 years. I first heard about Bob back in the fall of 1961, even before his first album came out. I was in college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison at the time and some friends at the university who were from New York City showed me a review of an early show in Folk City in October 1961, which had been written up in the New York Times. Being the collector that I am, I saved the newspaper and the review. The next year I bought his first album when it came out. I have been collecting ever since. I recently exhibited some of the items in my collection at the museum in Carnegie Hall in New York City. I currently have an exhibit in Duluth at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum, which runs through Aug. 1, and am exhibiting some pieces at the American Writers Museum in Chicago, which runs through the end of the year.
Anything you’d like to add?
The main reason I am doing this is to play a small part in helping to preserve Bob's legacy especially in Northern Minnesota, the area where he was born and grew up. Bob Dylan is one of our National Cultural Treasures and now a Nobel Laureate. Hibbing and Duluth have not done enough to recognize Bob over the years. We did have Zimmy's Restaurant and a section of Seventh Avenue renamed Bob Dylan Drive, thanks my friends Bob and Linda Hocking and the naming of Bob Dylan Way in Duluth, but there has not been much done beyond that.
On a positive note, The Hibbing Dylan Project is currently working on a public work of art honoring Bob, which will be located on the grounds of the High School. We also have to dispel the myth that Bob doesn't care about Hibbing and has expressed negative feelings toward our area. I hear this all the time from visitors who come to Hibbing and Duluth from all over the world and have talked to a few of the locals. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bob summed up his feelings toward our area in an interview with Douglas Brinkley in Rolling Stone magazine in 2009. In the interview, Bob said that once in a while when he comes down from Canada, ‘I’ll stop there in Hibbing and wander around.’
In the past five years, I’ve heard of three instances where Bob has been spotted in Hibbing. With regards to Duluth in the same interview, Bob said, ‘You'll never see another town like Duluth. It's not a tourist destination, but it should be.’ I also remember reading in another article that Bob complained to an interviewer at the end that reporters tend to omit the good things he says about this area.