Twin Cities Must See: James J. Hill House & Summit Avenue

Ever since I started working at the Robert R. McCormick Museum at Cantigny in Wheaton, I have been obsessed with seeing historic homes. I knew that I wanted to check out at least one historic home when I was in the Twin Cities. I did some research and found out about the James J. Hill House in St. Paul, MN on the beautiful Summit Avenue. It is a HUGE, 36,000 square foot mansion with 22 fireplaces, 16 crystal chandeliers, 13 bathrooms, a glass-ceiling-ed art gallery with pipe organ, all custom hand-carved woodwork throughout the home and a killer view to boot.

Lindsy and I took one of their house tours which went for 1.5 hours and included access to 4 levels of the home including the Drawing Room, Art Gallery, Grand Hallway, kitchen, Dining Rooms, Master Suites, and some of the Children’s Bedrooms. We also saw a 10 minute video on James J. Hill, who made his fortune in during the Railroad boom and extended railroads from St. Paul all the way to Seattle. His home was built for nearly $1 million dollars in 1891, which would be at least $35 million by today’s standards! The home was stunning and Lindsy and I really enjoyed the tour.

I was really surprised that they actually let you take photos inside the house (as long as you turn off your flash). There was not a lot of furniture or art in the home, so perhaps this is why. I know at RRMM were I am a docent we do not allow photography or videography, gum chewing, food, beverages, or touching of anything. The James J. Hill House rules were similar except for photography actually being permissible.

Something I would love to do if they offer this the next time I am there would be taking their Tuesday Night “Nooks and Crannies Tour” which takes you into parts of the home not shown on the normal tour. That sounds really cool!

Here are some of the photos from inside the home:

After the tour, Lindsy and I enjoyed strolling down Summit Avenue and looking at the other fabulous historic homes on this famous street.

I took a bunch of photos of our favorites…

And this gorgeous Cathedral is at the end of the road…!

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One Comment

  1. Craig Johnson
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for visiting the Hill House–and for the nice words and photos! We appreciate the comments. Happy historic house touring!

    Craig Johnson
    Site Manager, James J. Hill House