All great things are built on solid foundations. Families, relationships, buildings, countries, and cities.
The thriving success of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, for example, was largely contributed to by the Pillsbury family, Minnesota’s version of the Kennedy’s. Grounded, raised and called to leadership in diverse and impactful ways, the Pillsbury’s started a mill city that has become a world “influencer” like a Kardashian except with subtlety and taste. Out of pie crusts and Poppin’ Fresh dough, 17 fortune 500 companies have emerged along with world-renowned theaters, Prince, roller blades and the Mall of America.
When the fate of the Pillsbury mansion hung in the balance, historians and fans of toaster strudel alike were as outraged as mild-mannered, Minnesota nice people could be. Whether or not you knew the depths of this family’s contribution socially and economically, you still felt the impact of losing the famed Southways home on Lake Minnetonka beyond its brick and mortar value. Most Minnesotans believed that the real value was in its history stemming from a family that essentially founded the Twin Cities.
As we know, Southways was razed so quickly that the discussion on its preservation was ended without a proper argument. While finding a sense of sadness in its loss, it may have brought to our minds the many beautiful and historic homes that still exist in our state that have contributed to the foundation and fabric of our society.
Because we as Minnesotans treasure our roots, we have put great care in preserving the homes of families that laid our foundation.
Famous Minneapolis / St. Paul Historic Homes
Swan J. Turnblad Mansion/American Swedish Institute
Turnblad, a Swedish immigrant and newspaper publisher, began building the “Castle” in 1903. He and his family lived in the $1.5 million mansion (an outrageous amount at the time) for less than 10 years, donating it in 1929 to the organization that came to be known as the American Swedish Institute. Behold the turrets, catwalks, spires, and gables modeled after European castles as well as the intricately carved and embellished interiors that make it one of the more unique famous Twin Cities homes.
James J. Hill Mansion
Arguably one of the more famous Twin Cities homes, the Richardsonian Romanesque-style mansion, completed in 1891, was the home of Gilded Age railroad tycoon James J. Hill and family for 30 years. The house is part of the Minnesota Historical Society’s network of historic sites and museums and is a National Historic Landmark.
Joseph Forepaugh House
Built in 1870 by a St. Paul pioneer and dry goods tycoon, this fully restored Victorian mansion is now the elegant Forepaugh’s Restaurant—renowned for its atmosphere and its ghost sightings.
Van Dusen Mansion
Now an event venue, this mansion was built in 1892 for George Washington Van Dusen and his wife, Nancy. Beginning in the 1940s, it was used by a number of commercial enterprises, then narrowly escaped demolition in the mid-1990s. After a three-year restoration project, the mansion regained its original splendor and place among famous Twin Cities homes, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Perhaps the most unique is- the Purcell-Cutts House. Tim Purcell’s ancestor, William Gray Purcell and George Grant Elmslie built this masterpiece of Prairie-Style design in 1913. The two-story, open-plan house features art glass in every window, as well as custom-designed and built-in furnishings
Occupying a deep, narrow lot, the plan of the house was organized on a single axis, open from one end to the other, evoking spaciousness within the relatively small interior. Its innovative design ignores the traditional Victorian home design that was so popular when it was built in the early 20th century and rather invokes a Frank Lloyd Wright feel with its natural settings.