St. Paul's Summit Avenue has been named one of the 10 grandest streets in the United States... lined with impressive historic mansions including the Minnesota Governor's residence. None is more impressive, however, than the James J. Hill house standing on the hill near the St. Paul Cathedral (which wasn't yet built when the house was built).
Built on the summit of the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi its view extended for miles... but even more important to Mr. Hill, his mansion could also been standing atop the hill from miles away, a testament to his wealth and power. Because of its unique position, the house doesn't have a front and a back... it was designed with two fronts, impressive and clearly visible from both sides!
The historic James J. Hill house is evidence of the stunning early history of expansion to the West. Rugged stone, massive scale, fine detail and ingenious mechanical systems recall the powerful presence of James J. Hill, builder of the Great Northern Railway.
It is now owned by the Minnesota Historical Society and is open to the public... well worth a visit. Guides lead tours that help you imagine family and servant life in the Gilded Age mansion, the setting of the public and private lives of the Hill family.
The main level is impressively designed for public entertaining, including an art gallery with its own pipe organ. Our grandson loved the grand foyer and staircase... as well as the expansive marble downstairs 'foyer' in the servants' quarters. It made me think of 'Downton Abbey'. My favorite room was the library in the family living quarters.
At the end of his life, James Jerome Hill was asked by a newspaper reporter to reveal the secret of his success. Hill responded with characteristic bluntness, "Work, hard work, intelligent work, and then more work."
Hill became a pivotal force in the transformation of the Northwest as his railroad served as the backbone of white American settlement, agricultural, mining, and timber development, and commercial expansion.
After amassing a personal fortune estimated at $63 million and over $200 million in related assets, James J. Hill died in his Summit Avenue home on May 29, 1916, one of the wealthiest and most powerful figures of America’s Gilded Age.
Summit Avenue is still lined with elegant, historic homes. Curious what they are selling for? Check out Summit Avenue homes for sale... then let us know if you would like to make one your new home.
Sharlene Hensrud, St. Paul Realtor
- Nearly 100 years later, St. Paul Cathedral's pipe organs finally at full voice
- Crocus Hill...the prestigious, historic St. Paul neighborhood where you can still find cobblestones
- St. Paul's Grand Avenue... small town feel in the big city
- Discovering Stonebridge... the lost Mac-Groveland estate once considered for the governor's residence