Downtown Journal: Lost Mansions

By Sarah McKenzie
Downtown Journal

Millett_Once coverImagine the scene in the Whittier neighborhood in 1890.

A massive mansion — by far the largest in Minneapolis at the time — overshadowed all other neighboring homes on land now home to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The mansion known as Fair Oaks belonged to William Washburn, a politician who served in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

In his new book, “Once There Were Castles,” architectural historian Larry Millett describes the home as something quite rare for the city. “Like the man himself, [the mansion] was flashy and outsized, as much gesture as substance, an architectural show designed to awe. There had never been anything quite like it before in Minneapolis.”

The mansion was donated to the Minneapolis Park Board after Washburn died in 1912, but it became too costly too maintain and was razed in 1924 and became Washburn-Fair Oaks Park.

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