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Once There Were Castles

Lost Mansions and Estates of the Twin Cities

2011
Author:

Larry Millett

Once There Were Castles

Take a tour of the lost mansions of the Twin Cities

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.

Larry Millett has found more ghosts. In Once There Were Castles, the historian and author of Lost Twin Cities digs up images and stories that paint a picture of 90 long-gone buildings. The photographs of their unabashed luxury are stunning; the stories of their demise, laden with hubris, are irresistible.

Minnesota Monthly

In Lost Twin Cities, Larry Millett brought to life the vanished architecture of downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. Now, in Once There Were Castles, he offers a richly illustrated look at another world of ghosts in our midst: the lost mansions and estates of the Twin Cities.

Nobody can say for sure how many lost mansions haunt the Twin Cities, but at least five hundred can be accounted for in public records and archives. In Minneapolis and St. Paul, entire neighborhoods of luxurious homes have disappeared, virtually without a trace. Many grand estates that once spread out over hundreds of acres along the shores of Lake Minnetonka are also gone. The greatest of these lost houses often had astonishingly short lives: the lavish Charles Gates mansion in Minneapolis survived only nineteen years, and Norman Kittson’s sprawling castle on the site of the St. Paul Cathedral stood for barely more than two decades. Railroad and freeway building, commercial and institutional expansion, fires, and financial disasters all claimed their share of mansions; others succumbed to their own extravagance, becoming too costly to maintain once their original owners died.

The stories of these grand houses are, above all else, the stories of those who built and lived in them—from the fantastic saga of Marion Savage to the continent-spanning conquests of James J. Hill, to the all-but-forgotten tragedy of Olaf Searle, a poor immigrant turned millionaire who found and lost a dream in the middle of Lake Minnetonka. These and many other mansion builders poured all their dreams, desires, and obsessions into extravagant homes designed to display wealth and solidify social status in a culture of ever-fluctuating class distinctions.

The first book to take an 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.

Once There Were Castles

Larry Millett is an architectural historian and the author of Lost Twin Cities, Twin Cities Then and Now, and AIA Guide to the Twin Cities. He has also written six mystery novels featuring Sherlock Holmes, all but one of them set in Minnesota. He lives in St. Paul.

Once There Were Castles

Larry Millett has found more ghosts. In Once There Were Castles, the historian and author of Lost Twin Cities digs up images and stories that paint a picture of 90 long-gone buildings. The photographs of their unabashed luxury are stunning; the stories of their demise, laden with hubris, are irresistible.

Minnesota Monthly

With page after page of weathered photographs and captivating stories, Millett wends his way through tales of Minneapolis and St. Paul’s lost castles. Whether you’ve got a Gilded Age fantasy or just an appreciation for architecture, this book deserves a spot on your coffee table.

Midwest Home

Once There Were Castles: Lost Mansions and Estates of the Twin Cities is bursting with photos of the exteriors, interiors, and even blueprints of dozens of long-gone homes.

CBS Minnesota

Organized by neighborhood and richly illustrated, the book is an absorbing read for Twin Cities residents, architecture enthusiasts and history buffs.

ABC Newspapers

The text is entirely absorbing, with the kind of minute details that let the reader right into the lives of the ones they are reading about.

Examiner.com

His [Millett’s] style is always personable in a skeptical, sometimes expertly cutting way.

City Pages

I am glad for people like Millett, who have the patience and the oomph to dig through all that stuff to retell our past, with equal interest in that which may delight and that which may disturb.

MinnPost.com

Millett’s new book skillfully peers inside windows of bygone houses to record the narrative of lives long forgotten.

Minnesota Daily

A badly needed title for Twin Cities history buffs. . . . Fans will love the more than 250 vintage photos.

Library Journal

This is a lovely book . . . one you're proud to have on display and can dip into any time you need a break from current times. It's ideal for people interested in local history or people anywhere interested in long-gone home architecture, or for anyone who just likes to imagine life long ago.

Flyoverland

You may find you have a hard time fitting this big book on your shelf or in your case. Then again, maybe you won’t want to—once you begin reading, you’re hooked.

Bruce A. Austin, New York-Pennsylvania Collector

This is a beautiful coffee-table style book which benefits from fantastic research. The text is entirely absorbing, with the kind of minute details that let the reader right into the lives of the ones they are reading about.

Examiner

Perfect for the coffee table.

South- West Review

Millet’s book is as much a testament to architecture and lost castles as it is a history of Minnesota.

Finance and Commerce

Stunning photos and artful prose.

Minnesota History

By turns inspiring, tragic, humorous, and scandalous, the assembled building biographies reflect the extremes of their times.

Architecture Minnesota

Once There Were Castles

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction

St. Paul
1. Lowertown and Dayton’s Bluff
2. Capitol Heights, Central Park, and College Avenue
3. Summit Avenue and the Hill District
4. Rice Park, West Seventh, and the West Side
5. Around St. Paul
6. Suburban St. Paul

Minneapolis
7. Central Downtown
8. Loring Park, Hawthorne Park, and Oak Lake
9. Stevens Square, Washburn–Fair Oaks, and Park Avenue
10. Lowry Hill
11. The Lake District
12. Nicollet Island, Northeast, and University
13. Suburban Minneapolis

Notes
Illustration Credits
Index