James J. Hill House
240 Summit Ave.
Saint Paul Minnesota 55102United States
Walk in the footsteps of Saint Paul's 19th-century barons of industry on this walking tour of historic mansions overlooking downtown and the Mississippi River Valley.
This 90-minute walking tour ($10) takes visitors past Saint Paul's 19th-century elite's mansions along one of the city's (and, really, the country's) most spectacular residential streets. The tour showcases historic homes built to convey the gravity and importance of the Gilded Age's lumber and railroad barons. Many of the homes are dark stone creations (imposing and intimidating). Architectural styles represented include Romanesque, Queen Anne, Colonial, and Italian. Fans of architecture will appreciate the finer points of the tour. One early-1900s home features a row of six slender rectangles on the front, a precursor to the Prairie School style that Frank Lloyd Wright would later make famous.The tour also highlights Saint Paul's colorful history, such as the legend of brothel owner Nina Clifford, the beginning of the Little Brown Jug rivalry between the universities of Minnesota and Michigan, and the reason Chicago gangsters enjoyed a peaceable existence in Saint Paul. There are also plenty of F. Scott Fitzgerald stories mixed in because the tour winds through his childhood neighborhood. Sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society and staffed by knowledgeable guides, the tours are extremely professional and well-run.Included in the tour is admission to the front three parlor rooms of the James J. Hill mansion, which includes an art gallery. Hint: Visit on a Saturday when an organist plays the vintage pipe organ. Tours begin and end at the James J. Hill House; they run rain or shine, so dress appropriately. Tours are offered every Saturday and Sunday, May through September. Reservations are recommended.