Thursday, September 17, 2015


When my husband and I travel, we especially enjoy going to historical sites. It wasn't any different when we recently went to Minneapolis for the TCU vs UM football game. Some of his fraternity brothers were also coming to the game with their wives. We decided to go a little earlier and stay a little longer since neither one of us had been their before. We managed to visit Historic Fort Snelling  (I'll share lots of pictures of it later.) and Minnehaha Park/Falls in Minneapolis, and the James J. Hill House in St. Paul. We wanted to go in the capitol but it was closed. (Looked like they were doing some repairs.) We also went to the Sibley Historic Site in Mendota, but it was also closed.

The leaflet for James J. Hill's House refers to it as Minnesota's Downton Abby. The 42-room (36,000 sq. foot) mansion was built in 1891 and used to be the largest private residence in Minnesota. Born in Canada, James Hill came to the United States when he was 17. He eventually advanced the rail business in the midwest all the way to the Pacific Ocean. You can read more about him here. Another good site is here.

James and his wife Mary had 10 children over 18 years, 7 girls and 3 boys. When they moved into the house, the oldest daughter had married and Walter, the youngest boy was 6. His middle son Louis became president of the company in 1907. James died in 1916 at the age of 77. Mary died at 74 in 1921. Neither had completed wills. In 1922 the children gave the house to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The children had professional photographers photograph all of the rooms in 1922 as Mary had left them. In 1978 the Minnesota Historical Society required the mansion, restored it, and opened it to the public. All of the furniture in the house is original furniture. Pictures hang in the rooms to show visitors what the rooms looked like when the Hills lived in the house.

Enjoy a few pictures I took.
from the front
from the back
further west from the back
the grand staircase
This staircase is in the middle of a 2,000 sq foot hall. It is opposite the front door. When guests arrived, the ladies could go upstairs through a passageway before entering the hall. They could tidy themselves from the travel and then make a grand entrance down the stairway. 

The windows on the landing allowed extra light to come into the house. I took pictures of two of the stain glass windows. 
The end two looked like this and had the most color.

The middle two were the lightest in color. This was done to allow more light in the center down the stairs.
I didn't take a picture of the ones between.
In the formal dining room was a wall safe where the silver was stored. There was another wall safe behind it that opened into the den, but the docent said they didn't know what he kept in there. (I didn't take any pictures, but found the information interesting.)

When we went downstairs, my husband noticed the ceiling and asked the docent about it. All of the ceilings in the house are made of brick arches to make for stronger support. You just don't see them, because the arches were covered by a normal looking ceiling.

Outside on the back porch you could see the unpainted brick.

For security the windows on the lowest level were covered with bars. The doors had "pocket" bar doors that could cover the doorway. (I didn't take a picture of the pocket bar doors, but found them fascinating.)

This is a picture of the Cathedral of St. Paul that was located right across the street from the house. We wanted to go in, but they were having private services.

After we left we drove to nearby Nina's Coffee Cafe for a delicious lunch.

Beautiful area of St. Paul. The houses were just fabulous.

As I said, we had planned to go in the Capitol, but it was closed. I didn't get a picture of it either. You can see a picture of it here.

I will be sharing more pictures in the next few days. Hope you will check back in.

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