From the category archives:

Architectural Design in Minneapolis

One of my favorite buildings to photograph is the Cathedral of Saint Paul. I was on my way to a Wild hockey game at the Xcel and took this shot in the early evening from the top of a parking garage.


Recently listed for sale is a beautiful Spanish Revival home built in 1930 by Adolf Ronning. It was designed by Arthur Dahlstrom with input from Mrs. Hildur Ronning and reflects the Swedish and Norwegian heritage shared by the original owners. Sitting across the designated parkland on Lake Nokomis, the 3 city lot site rests on a natural ridge overlooking the lake.

The home features Tulip designs throughout the home, and none can be better seen then the two sets of Tulip Doors that grace the formal dining room and front living room. Hand cut from one tree, the doors are made of American Black Walnut and are hand rubbed oil, just like they were 80 years ago.

Offered at $1,069,000, the home offers lake living on Lake Nokomis, at a fraction of the cost of a home located at Lake of the Isles. To view more photos and learn historical information about the house, please visit .

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This weeks showcase historic home is located at 332 Summit Avenue in St. Paul.

Built in 1889 by Edgar Long, the home was designed by the Cass Gilbert and James Taylor (who also built together the home next door, 322-324 Summit Avenue). At the time, this amazing home was built for only $30,000. It is reported that Mr. Long was the in the lumber business, as were many of the wealthy home owners on Summit, and the general manager of the Railway Supply Company.

Amazingly, not much has changed with this home. While many homes in the area have lost their porches, or had additions put on the home, this home has only had a few minor changes. The coach port, as seen in this photo, has been enclosed and now houses the kitchen on the main floor, with a sun room on the second level (addition). For the grand homes on this side of Summit, the kitchens were originally located in the basement, with food delivered via dumb-waiters. It was believed that the smell of food would cause appetites to sour, so all food was prepared below the home. The new kitchen, since placed in the once porte cochere, has the exterior wall of the home as an interior wall, letting you see the grand door arches that were once entrances into the home from a carriage.

The rear of the home has seen some changes, namely to the porch stairs, as well as the missing railing on the top balcony, and the third story breeze way has been enclosed with glass. You can see how the home looked in 1890 from this photo.

At about 7600 square feet, the home is very large, with seven bedrooms, five bathrooms, and a third story game room. One of the draw backs would be the one car garage underneath the kitchen, but many of these homes lack adequate garage stalls. The saving grace is that the garage is a drive through into the back yard, offering further private parking if needed. When these mansions were built, carriage houses existed to the rear of the home, but most of these are long gone. At 332 Summit, the ruins of the original carriage house are still present.

The home recently sold in 2006 for $1,499,000.


The Church of St Peter was founded in 1840 by Father Lucien Galtier, a priest who was sent by the local Catholic Bishop to care for the settlers and Indian population. He was only 29 at the time, a newly ordained priest, and his territory extended all over Dakota County.
Located on the banks of the Minnesota River, the area was originally inhabited by the Dakota (Sioux) Indians. When settlers arrived in the early 1800’s, they called the place St Peter. It wasn’t until 1852 that the name was changed to Mendota, meaning “meeting of the waters”. If you look on a map, Mendota is located where the Minnesota River and Mississippi River merge together.
The church shown in the photo was constructed in 1853, to replace the log cabin that had been used for the previous ten years. It was constructed with local limestone and hand-cut split shingles, and cost $4,500 to build.
The steeple has had its own share of excitement over the years. The original was very short and had no bell, being blown down in the 1880’s. The next replacement was taller and had a bell this time, but it only lasted 65 years when a tornado came through and destroyed it. In 1953, the current tower was constructed to celebrate its 100 year anniversary.
You can imagine that a building this old would one day need to be restored. In the late 1970’s a major restoration operation was begun at a cost of over $200,000. The limestone was cleaned, the steeple repaired, trusses and framework replace, etc. Today the “Historic Church” is only used for special events and weekday masses.
The Church of St Peter is a great architectural example of early church construction. It should be, as it is the oldest Catholic parish in the entire state of Minnesota!
I first published this post on my blog that specializes in historic homes and buildings in Minnesota. If you would like to learn more about Minnesota architecture, please visit my other blog, where I try to show our history in its best light…through pictures.


This weeks Historic Home is located at 530 Grand Hill, Saint Paul.

Built some time between 1885-1895, the home was designed by the firm Reed and Stem for Horace E. Stevens. Allen Stem also designed 340 Summit Avenue. The home sits on a corner lot, elevated off the street. With its red brick facade, the home really doesn’t have a design category that it fits neatly into. However it does have mostly Gothic characteristics as seen in the front porch arch and the pointed arch windows. The center gable is also influeced from the Gothic Revival style, and the dominant dual chimneys make a grand statement.

An addition was added to the home in 1923 by the new owner, Charles H. Bigelow, Jr. The design so well matched the original home, it is very hard to distinguish between the two. The home has about 5000 square feet, six bedrooms, four bathrooms, and was last sold in 2002 for $795,000.


Downtown Minneapolis has one of the most amazing architectural buildings I have ever seen, especially for a government building. This photo is of the clock tower of the Municipal Building (City Hall) which was built in the late 1800’s.


To continue with my series on Historic Architecture in Minneapolis and St Paul, some of the most beautiful examples of fine craftsmanship can be found in Italianate homes.


Built between 1840 – 1885

The Italianate style is reported to have begun in England as part of the Picturesque movement. Over the years, Italian Villas, as some call them, went from farmhouse informal to formal grandeur. Obviously, as the name infers, Italian architecture from ancient Rome led a helping hand to the popularization of key architectural details.

There are many details in the design of Italianate that make it easily identifiable. One of the easiest is the heavy, large brackets that hang under the eaves. They are usually ornate and arranged singly or in pairs. Every home was built with at least two stories, and the style is predominately found in the Midwest and some in the Northeast.

Another obvious feature is the square copula that sits atop the home. The roofs are usually low pitched. Unfortunately, copulas tend to be neglected and they begin to leak, so most Italianate homes no longer sport this eye catching feature. The cupola shown below is the only remaining one in Stillwater, which has numerous examples of the style.

The decline of the style began with the panic of 1873, and once consumer confidence returned, new styles like the Queen Anne Victorian were becoming popular.

I have put together a slide show of historic homes in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Stillwater, Red Wing, and Lansing, Iowa, that are prime examples of Italianate architecture. Two details you will see throughout are the arched windows and the window hoods above each window.

View the first post in this series on Second Empire architectural design.


I don’t know any other city that has a national landmark of a big spoon with a cherry on top. But the sculpture has become the most photographed item in Minneapolis. If you look on almost every website and publication about Minneapolis, the photo of the spoon and cherry will be there. Located in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, downtown is just within site and makes a great backdrop for tourists.


If you are looking for a great place to sit back on a sunny afternoon and enjoy a beautiful fall day, then look no further than Minneapolis’ own backyard. Stop by Lake Harriet where you can enjoy swimming, fishing, walking, music, and much more. The Lake has 344 acres of water and 67 acres of land. With almost three miles of trails available, the park could be crowded but you would never know it.

Check out the Streetcar that travels from Linden Hills to Lake Harriet. The restored line takes you back in history and is another fun adventure for your day trip. The rides are seasonal so be sure to check out their schedule before you go. The #1300 I photographed below is on the National Registry of Historic Places.

According to the Minneapolis Park and Rec website, “Music has been part of the scene at Lake Harriet for over 100 years. The current band shell is the fifth music facility since 1888 and its design echoes the history of the area. The first music pavilion, built in 1888, was destroyed by fire in 1891. A new one was built, but in 1903 it, too, was destroyed by fire. The next pavilion, built in 1904, featured a classical rooftop. It was destroyed by a windstorm in 1925. In 1927, a temporary bandstand was erected and remained until 1985 when the current band shell was constructed.” See photo in filmstrip for current bandstand Pavilion.

You might wonder why I took a photo of the restroom. Well, this women’s restroom, as well a separate male restroom building, are actually quite historic. In 2002 they were restored to their original appearance and are the oldest two building in the Minneapolis park system.

If you have time, walk around some of the neighborhood streets that surround the lake. There are some beautiful examples of French Provincial, Colonial Revival, Tudor, Prairie, and Craftsman home design.

View some turn of the century photos of life on the lake: Swimmers and Row Boats, the second pavilion in 1895 and the third in 1904, the path around the lake in 1910.


Garage doors in the Twin Cities have come along way. The boring white door with no windows is still the most popular by far, but high-end and luxury homes are coming up with innovative designs and traveling back in time for inspiration. Take a look at some garage door examples on new construction homes around Minneapolis.