Once There Were Castles

Once There Were Castles: Lost Mansions and Estates of the Twin Cities

Larry Millett
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 376
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.cttts500
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  • Book Info
    Once There Were Castles
    Book Description:

    The first in-depth look at the history of the Twin Cities’ mansions, Once There Were Castles presents ninety lost mansions and estates, organized by neighborhood and illustrated with photographs and drawings. An absorbing read for Twin Cities residents and a crucial addition to the body of work on the region’s history, Once There Were Castles brings these “ghost mansions” back to life.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7866-2
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-20)

    Although urban renewal and the destruction of historic buildings, homes, and neighborhoods is often thought of as a post–World War II phenomenon, the process is in fact much older than that. Consider these words, from an anonymous writer for theMinneapolis Tribune: “The casual pedestrian who walks about in a zone between Hennepin and Seventh avenue south, on the one hand, and Sixth street and Twelfth, on the other, cannot fail to note the many evidences that here was once a charming residence district of Old Minneapolis. Yet it requires a good deal of imagination to excavate that residence...

  5. ST. PAUL
    • CHAPTER 1 LOWERTOWN and DAYTON’S BLUFF
      (pp. 23-46)

      In 1923, a writer for theSt. Paul Pioneer Presstook readers on a nostalgic tour of a vanishing world. “In the shadows of large commercial buildings in the once fashionable Lower Town district of St. Paul is desolation as grievous to certain of the city’s pioneer residents as war-devastated places in France. . . . Homes that once were the abode of the well-to-do and hopeful . . . have disappeared before the encroachment of railway trackage and other things of commerce.” Among the last holdouts was an Italianate-style stone house on East Eighth Street. Built in the late...

    • CHAPTER 2 CAPITOL HEIGHTS, CENTRAL PARK, and COLLEGE AVENUE
      (pp. 47-72)

      In May 1948 theSt. Paul Dispatchreported, with a palpable sense of melancholy, the destruction-in-progress of yet another grand old Victorian-era mansion: the George Benz House, located behind the State Capitol. An official of the upcoming Minnesota Territorial centennial celebration was quoted as saying it was “a disgrace and a shame that St. Paulites are not interested enough in the city’s early history to preserve such a fine building for posterity,” but he might as well have been conversing with the wind.¹

      The fate of the Benz House was, or soon would be, the fate of all the other...

    • CHAPTER 3 SUMMIT AVENUE and THE HILL DISTRICT
      (pp. 73-102)

      No street in the Twin Cities is more associated with mansions than Summit Avenue. Henry Mower Rice built the first house on Summit in 1851, and within two decades another twenty-five or so homes, most of them big enough to be called mansions, filled in along the avenue. All but a few were located on the prime blufftop portion of Summit between Selby Avenue and Ramsey Street. Topography and location made Summit especially appealing to mansion builders. The avenue offered a commanding height, was less than a mile from the heart of downtown, yet was well removed from Lowertown’s sooty...

    • CHAPTER 4 RICE PARK, WEST SEVENTH, and THE WEST SIDE
      (pp. 103-124)

      Rice Park was set aside in 1849 as part of Rice and Irvine’s Addition, one of St. Paul’s earliest plats, but the park took a while to develop. The first shade trees were planted in 1860 (with members of the police force, for some reason, being called on to do the work), and by the 1870s the park’s amenities included a bandstand and a fountain. Far bigger improvements came in 1883, when the city staged a gigantic celebration to mark completion of the Northern Pacific Railway’s transcontinental line. President Chester Alan Arthur traveled to St. Paul to add some oratorical...

    • CHAPTER 5 AROUND ST. PAUL
      (pp. 125-144)

      By 1900 St. Paul was a city of 163,000 people, the richest of whom tended to stick close to one another atop the bluffs of Summit Avenue and the Hill District. Summit, which ultimately became the site of more than four hundred houses, was like a great pool into which the city’s wealth drained, and it only grew larger as some of the city’s other historic mansion districts, such as Lowertown and Capitol Heights, began to dry up. Elsewhere across the city, mansions of the full-bodied type, with the kind of baronial swagger that only very deep pockets can muster,...

    • CHAPTER 6 SUBURBAN ST. PAUL
      (pp. 145-162)

      In 1886–87 George W. Sheldon, a prolific author of what today would be called coffee-table books, produced a hefty two-volume tome calledArtistic Country-Seatsthat offered photographs, plans, and lengthy descriptions of more than ninety American mansions thought to be among the best suburban homes of the day. Most of the featured homes were in the Northeast, where great constellations of outsized estates could be found in the tony suburbs ringing Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia and in seaside resorts like Newport, Rhode Island.¹

      Sheldon also cast his eye to the west, however, and included four St. Paul...

  6. MINNEAPOLIS
    • CHAPTER 7 CENTRAL DOWNTOWN
      (pp. 165-186)

      “Sometimes when I turn into Tenth Street from Hennepin Avenue I rub my eyes and pinch myself to make sure that I am awake,” an old-time resident of downtown Minneapolis wrote in the 1930s, “for it does not seem possible that fifty years could wipe out one of the prettiest ‘home’ centers so completely.”¹ The writer’s nostalgia arose from a hard core of fact. From the 1860s to the early 1900s, mansions belonging to the city’s most prominent families took up entire downtown blocks, forming a lost residential world of towered houses and green lawns that is hard to visualize...

    • CHAPTER 8 LORING PARK, HAWTHORNE PARK, and OAK LAKE
      (pp. 187-212)

      A newspaper writer in the 1930s toured the Loring Park neighborhood—then an architectural stew of car dealerships, hotels, apartments, and crumbling old mansions—and recalled the time when it was “one of the most socially exclusive sections of the city.” The remains of that lost age were still evident in “some of the aristocratic dwellings of early days, among them a number of fine old houses at whose imposing fronts ornate Corinthian pillars, once the height of architectural style, still stand guard beside unrepaired and weather-beaten doors.” It was a familiar complaint, but in the case of Loring Park...

    • CHAPTER 9 STEVENS SQUARE, WASHBURN–FAIR OAKS, and PARK AVENUE
      (pp. 213-234)

      By 1890 the era of mansion building in downtown Minneapolis was all but over as other parts of the city became favored ground for the conspicuous display of wealth. Two areas directly south of downtown, Washburn–Fair Oaks and Park Avenue, proved especially appealing to the moneyed crowd. Beginning in the mid-1880s and continuing well into the twentieth century, these two neighborhoods, along with Lowry Hill, were the city’s most prestigious residential precincts. The roster of lost mansions here includes the palatial William Washburn House on the site of today’s Fair Oaks Park.¹

      By the time Washburn began building his...

    • CHAPTER 10 LOWRY HILL
      (pp. 235-262)

      A. T. Andreas’sIllustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Minnesota, which rarely shied away from civic boosterism, proclaimed in 1874 that “the beautiful Groveland Addition . . . is rapidly becoming a most charming village by itself. The wide Hennepin Avenue, which passes through it, is firmly macadamized, and the spacious lots are fertile and prolific. Here Thomas Lowery [sic], Esq., is erecting a residence which will cost $35,000. . . . Those seeking delightful residence property should view this favored spot.”¹

      As it turned out, Andreas’s glowing account of the “rapidly” developing Groveland Addition was, like his spelling...

    • CHAPTER 11 THE LAKE DISTRICT
      (pp. 263-284)

      The Lake District—a beloved realm of water, parks, and handsome homes—is Minneapolis’s defining place, an urban environment like none other in the nation. Yet for the first half century or so of the city’s existence, the hilly, wooded land around the lakes was hardly considered an ideal residential precinct, for mansions or any other kind of housing.

      Part of the problem was location. The lakes were a long carriage ride or walk from the downtown core in the pre-streetcar era, and so closer-in neighborhoods developed first. The lakes themselves also had shortcomings. Some of them, like the future...

    • CHAPTER 12 NICOLLET ISLAND, NORTHEAST, and UNIVERSITY
      (pp. 285-300)

      In 1859 Ebenezer B. West, who ran a factory on Hennepin Island, built a mansion-sized home and boardinghouse on Second Street Southeast in the city of St. Anthony, across the river from Minneapolis. Named after the waterfall that powered its economy, St. Anthony was both older and more populous than its west-bank rival. West’s house, which was probably larger than any residence of the time in Minneapolis, reflected St. Anthony’s position as the dominant city at the falls—a status that would prove short-lived.

      St. Anthony had been established in 1838, after a treaty with the Dakota and Ojibwa opened...

    • CHAPTER 13 SUBURBAN MINNEAPOLIS
      (pp. 301-344)

      Although several small communities, including Richfield and what later became Minnetonka, developed near Minneapolis as early as the 1850s, suburbs as they are commonly thought of today did not really appear until about 1880 as railroad lines began to extend out from the city in all directions. Some of these early suburbs grew around large-scale industrial operations. Hopkins, originally known as West Minneapolis, developed rapidly in the 1880s after the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company (later Minneapolis-Moline) built a plant there. Industrial development also fueled the growth of St. Louis Park and Robbinsdale in the late nineteenth century.¹

      Mansions were never...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 345-354)
  8. ILLUSTRATION CREDITS
    (pp. 355-356)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 357-364)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 365-365)