Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Hill Grandeur on Summit Avenue

Sunday afternoon, we went to the James J. Hill House on Summit Avenue in St. Paul after our failure at the Minnesota Children's Museum. This kids and I have been here more than once to discuss the industrial revolution and the importance of rail for American expansionism. However, John usually does not get to come with us. I had considered doing this Saturday afternoon while waiting for my daughter's zoo training to finish, but we burned some more energy off instead.

The James J. Hill house has 36,000 square feet of room in the building. No longer a private home, it is a museum owned by the Minnesota Historical Society. The beautiful sandstone home displays two shades of stone. The Archdiocese attempted to clean the stone when the building was in its possession--though they stopped when they realized the stone was being damaged by its attempts. The home overlooks St. Paul, and is impressive from both the font and the back.

The home had a school room, a boiler room, a naturally lit art gallery, an enormous two story pipe organ and a grand staircase. The area at the bottom served as a ballroom when special doors to the front were opened when the family entertained. The house also had a shower in each male bedroom--considered a form of massage at the time and a hybrid of gas and electric lights--considered innovations at the time it was built in 1891. Hill also made sure the structure used steel as its structure rather than wood, to help in fire proofing efforts. This steel is still visible above the art gallery. Also visible is Carnegie's stamp on the steel beams. Mrs. Hill did not entertain in the home again after her husband's death in 1916. It is a marvelous place to visit--though the envy drained from me quickly when the guide stated that it cost $19,000 to heat it two years ago before energy prices sky rocketed. Still a grand place to visit.

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