Once There Were Castles: Lost Mansions and Estates of the Twin Cities

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Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"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

Library Journal
Millett (Lost Twin Cities), no stranger to the architectural landscape of the Midwest, serves up a delectable love letter to the lost manors and estates of the greater Minneapolis area. Profiled in this well-illustrated survey are 90 grand and not-so-grand properties that failed to survive the depredations of time, taxes, and changing property values. What's special here is the spotlight on the lives of those who built and lived in these mostly mid- to late Victorian piles. Of the many trenchant tidbits Millett finds, one concerns a widow saddled with perhaps the grandest and most short-lived of manses in Minneapolis: "I did nothing but shop for food to feed [the staff]. My whole life seemed to be running that big house." Millett also showcases the Frank Lloyd Wright prairie houses that didn't survive and even includes a mod-style anomaly from the 1960s. Fans will love the more than 250 vintage photos. VERDICT A badly needed title for Twin Cities history buffs; otherwise, it's of interest only to specialized tastes.—David Soltesz, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816674305
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 8/27/2011
  • Pages: 376
  • Sales rank: 329,439
  • Product dimensions: 10.10 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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Table of Contents

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

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 26, 2011

    Magnificent Book

    This book is full of history. It's beyond amazing to see all of the "Missing Mansions" of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

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