Minnesota prides itself in being a great place to live, but over the years has also boasted a number of truly grand places to live.
Over the years, many of the grand homes that graced the streets and shaded boulevards of Minnesota cities, small towns and the country estates of the wealthy and powerful fell out of fashion, into disrepair, an ultimately were razed to make room for another parking lot, shopping mall or suburban split-level. Fortunately however, a number of theses grand piles managed to survive years of neglect, remodeling and reuse to fall into the hands of historically aware, architecturally sensitive owners who spared little effort and expense to return them to resplendent glory.
Dave and Kathy Christenson of Winona restored the Abner Hodgins house at the corner of Broadway and Harriet St. A recently published book by architectural historian Larry Millett and photographer Matt Schmitt includes the story of the Hodgins House and 21 other great Minnesota homes. “Minnesota’s Own: Preserving Our Grand Homes” will be released Nov. 5 by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.
The roster of Minnesota’s mansion builders presented in Millett’s book is a veritable who’s been who in Minnesota from territorial days into the recent 20th century. Stories of the likes of territorial pioneer Alexander Ramsey; Secretary of the Treasury William Windom; railroad magnate James J. Hill; department store founder George Dayton, the doctors Mayo; and Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun are interwoven with accounts of the homes they built to celebrate their success, entertain their guests and leave as a tangible reminder of their lives and times.
Even more so, "Minnesota’s Own" is a visual testament to the sometimes intangible-seeming value of historic preservation. “The work of preservation is never ending” Millett wrote, “but the houses in this book demonstrate that its rewards are profound and lasting.”
Here are some photos from inside the Christensons’ Winona home.