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).

Hill house-front back2

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.

Hill house-interior

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.

Hill house-front1

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.

Summit avenue

Sharlene Hensrud, St. Paul Realtor

HomesMSP Team with RE/MAX Results – Sharlene, John, Angela


About Sharlene Hensrud

I love what I do! Highly insightful, analytical and creative, there is nothing I love more than helping you find the right solution for your real estate transition. My mission is to serve my clients with honesty and integrity, exceeding their expectations in service and support… and to help others by donating a portion of every transaction to Habitat for Humanity.

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