Eastcliff

History of a Home

2022
Author:

Karen Kaler

An illustrated tour of this historic mansion on the Mississippi River, now the official home of the president of the University of Minnesota—and the most-visited public residence in the state

Built as a family home in 1922, Eastcliff, a twenty-room estate in St. Paul on the banks of the Mississippi River, has been the official residence for presidents of the University of Minnesota since 1961. Eastcliff: History of a Home reveals the story of this building and those it housed and hosted over a century of momentous change, told by an insider.

Katharine Hepburn, John Dillinger, Helen Keller, Clark Gable—Karen Fults Kaler’s Eastcliff: History of a Home has them all, along with nine University of Minnesota presidents and the storied Brooks family that built a landmark atop the Mississippi River bluff in St. Paul. A swimming dog, a female feline named Stefan, and an attic ghost are here, too. Their meticulously researched stories, zestfully told, make for delightful reading.

Lori Sturdevant, author and retired Star Tribune editorial writer

Built as a family home in 1922 by lumber baron Edward Brooks, Eastcliff, a twenty-room estate in St. Paul on the banks of the Mississippi River, has been the official residence for presidents of the University of Minnesota since 1961. If houses could write memoirs, Eastcliff's would likely be a sensation, and Eastcliff: History of a Home reveals the story of this building and those it housed and hosted over a century of momentous change, told by an insider.

A resident of Eastcliff for eight years as spouse of the university’s sixteenth president, Karen Kaler is a knowing and companionable guide through the historic home—from the foyer, hung with photographs of presidents’ families; to the library and bedrooms, living and dining rooms where family dramas played out and Minnesota history unfolded; to the carriage house and catering kitchen, whose denizens keep the household running. Here are the Georgian colonial-style facade, the tennis court, and an early, do-it-yourself saltwater pool. Here are the garden room and the dollhouse, Eastcliff in miniature. Here is a hallway that was once used as a shooting range and an attic with a skeleton in it. Amid all the splendor, business, and mischief there are visits from Helen Keller, Katharine Hepburn, Eddie Vedder, the Dalai Lama, and Vice Presidents Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey, whose appearance results in children surprising the Secret Service—a reminder that Eastcliff is the setting for family life as well as the site of academic and political events.

In her tour of Eastcliff's hundred-year history, Karen Kaler tells all of these stories and more, graciously opening the doors to this illustrious home.

An author and graphic designer, Karen Fults Kaler has written books for children, including Weenie Meets Helen Keller: A True Story Featuring Eastcliff in Miniature. She lived at Eastcliff with her husband Eric from 2011 to 2018.

Katharine Hepburn, John Dillinger, Helen Keller, Clark Gable—Karen Fults Kaler’s Eastcliff: History of a Home has them all, along with nine University of Minnesota presidents and the storied Brooks family that built a landmark atop the Mississippi River bluff in St. Paul. A swimming dog, a female feline named Stefan, and an attic ghost are here, too. Their meticulously researched stories, zestfully told, make for delightful reading.

Lori Sturdevant, author and retired Star Tribune editorial writer