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  • Minnesota History CenterMinnesota History Center St. Paul, Minnesota
    The Minnesota History Center is an interactive museum containing changing and permanent displays, as well as hosting special events during the year, concerts, family days and lectures, and home to the Minnesota Historical Society library and archives; which has become a research center for schoolchildren, academics and family historians. It is located in St. Paul, Minnesota and is made from granite that was quarried in Rockville, Minnesota, hardwoods from the state also, travertine or limestone from Winona, Minnesota, copper and Georgia marble. There is an excellent courtyard art project that was created by nationally known artist, Andrew Leicester of Minneapolis, and the Minnesota Profiles, a sculpture group, created bench high walls that were designed as to show the foundations of two apartment buildings that would be torn down in the 1960s urban renewal plan, and an array of columns that represent a different native state tree and showcases a three-dimensional silhouette portrait. During October of 1994, some 140 volunteers would sit for a profile portrait as well as give a short personal story about their own relationship with the state, with Leicester picking just 37, and their faces can be seen in the 14 ceramic columns. Leicester then spun the profiles into terra cotta and incorporated these into the columns, which was unveiled in 1995, although the names of the chosen wasn't revealed. It is and will always be one of those mysteries that allow all the volunteers to imagine their profiles included the magnificent project. On the floor of the great hall, artist James Casebere completed his work for the society, making the entire floor a work of art. There are ten images in the floor that represent the state's history and character, but they have been converted into a huge charm bracelet that isn't just one piece, but rather it is as if it had been shattered and the pieces fallen onto the floor. The charms had been sculpted out of three-eighths-inch-thick bronze plates, which were then embedded in the concrete, and then terrazzo, a black stone-like material would be poured over the entire floor, encasing the charms in it. The charms represent; the whooping crane is the Ojibwa totem for direction and leadership, the tractor for agriculture, fish which is Ojibwa for teachers and learning, printer's ink roller that represents freedom of speech and communication, the bear which is Ojibwa for warriors and defense, tipi is the state's American Indian groups, turtle which is Ojibwa for healing and medicine, mill that represents the state's flour milling industries and lumbering, power plant that represents the Prairie Island nuclear power plant on the Mississippi River and the house from Rondo Avenue that represents the African Americans that were part of the state's history. On the third level of the great hall, on the west wall, you might imagine yourself being encompassed by windows, which was exactly what Tim Michelson and Bob Bonawitz wanted you to feel when they finished the sky mural on the north wall. These two artists specialize in frescoes and murals, with the names of the biggest society donors on the lower right side of the mural, and on the left is a quotation by Sigurd F. Olson, the Minnesota philosopher and naturalist: "If we can move into an open horizon where we can live in our modern world with the ancient dreams that have always stirred us, then our work will have been done." Located above the entrance doors, there are magnificent glass etchings in geometric designs that were created to complement the building's classic architecture. Mr. Brit Bunkley would the artist that created the sandblasted panels that indirectly refer to the state's past, geography and culture. All through the building you'll see an eight-pointed star in the ceiling with each pair of points representing the letter M for Minnesota. The star stands for the state, which is known as the North Star state, and since it was the northernmost state, until Alaska joined us, it is still a good representation.

  • Minnesota State Capitol
    Minnesota State Capitol St. Paul, MinnesotaThe Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota contains the Senate, House of Representatives, the office of the governor and the office of the attorney general, as well as having a chamber for the Minnesota Supreme Court. The magnificent structure is housed on a marvelously landscaped campus, with many kinds of monuments on its flanks and front, with a bridge that spans University Avenue on the back side, and then later in the front, more would be added over the sunken roadway of I-94. The outstanding structure is situated on the crest of a hill, with the capitol steps offering a wonderful view of the city. The interesting building was designed by Cass Gilbert and modeled after Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, with this unsupported dome being the second biggest in the world, again, after St. Peter's. Construction began in 1896, and finished in 1906, and the third capitol building constructed. The first was destroyed by fire in 1881, and the next one would be finished in 1883, but too small even before it was completed. Standing high above the south entrance is a gilded quadriga named, "the Progress of the State" that was sculpted by Daniel Chester French and Edward Clark Potter, finished and raised to the roof in 1906, and during the mid 1990s, the statues were given a gold leaf restoration, along with other renovations and the sphere that sits on the very top was also gilded. It seems that ever since Michelangelo painted the Cistern Chapel's dome, every dome constructed in the world is compared to that beautiful work of art, and Gilbert's dome is an interesting homage, along with intriguing differences. The structure would cost $4.5 million to build, at the start of the 20th century, and it opened its doors to the public in January, 1906; and by a century later, it would be worth, $400 million; and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

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  • James J. Hill MansionJames J. Hill Mansion St. Paul, Minnesota
    The James J. Hill House in St. Paul, Minnesota is a symbol and reflection of the man himself, who wanted a house that made a statement about him and his outstanding successes, as well one that suited him and his family. He would begin with the architectural firm of Peabody, Stearns and Furber, who would design a plain but forceful and direct mansion in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, with Hill overseeing everything, from the planning stages to the construction and final furnishing of the magnificent home; much like he was building another railroad. He rejected any type of stained-glass windows, even if they were designed by Tiffany and Company, stating that weren't what he wanted, and then replaced the architects after they had ignored his orders to the stonecutters, which seems only natural since it was his house and what he was paying for. He would then go with a Boston firm called Irving and Casson to complete the interior, which was finished in 1891. By the time it was done, it would be the biggest and most expensive house in the state, with 36,000 square feet that sat on five floors, a two story skylit art gallery, 100 foot reception hall, 13 bathrooms, 22 fireplaces, 16 crystal chandeliers and the most exquisitely carved oak and mahogany woodworks. The splendid house had central heat, plumbing, gas and electric lighting, ventilation, communication and security with a special technical system to monitor it all. The total cost when done would be $931,275.01 that included everything inside and outside the massive mansion that sat on three lovely acres. The mansion would become the focal point for the family for the next three decades, with Mary T. Hill making sure that the house ran like a ship, that included a big domestic staff, with Mary hiring the cooks and maids, inspecting the kitchens and serving as the hostess with the mostess for all their dinners and receptions. Mary kept the house in good shape as well after James passed on in 1916, until she passed on in 1921, and the family bought the mansion from the estate and donated it to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul. During the next half century, it would become an office building, school and residence for the church until it was then obtained by the Minnesota Historical Society in 1978. It was made a National Historic Landmark in 1961, and is still a monument to the Empire builder.

  • Alexander Ramsey House
    Alexander Ramsey House St. Paul, MinnesotaThe Alexander Ramsey House in St. Paul, Minnesota is the former residence of the first governor of the Minnesota territory and the second governor of the state of Minnesota, found in the Irvine Park area of the city, designed by well known early Minnesota architect Monroe Sheire. The marvelous house is still one of the country's finest preserved Victorian house, with outstanding carved walnut woodwork, crystal chandeliers, numerous original furnishings and marble fireplaces. It is a 15 room house that is run by the Minnesota Historical Society now as a museum, with tours being offered all year long. The dining room table is set with the family's finest china and crystal, and during Christmas there is a beautiful Christmas tree decorated with all the Ramsey's own ornaments. Ramsey was born in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania in 1815, and by 1845, he was marrying Anna Earl Jenks, with the couple having three children, although two would die in childhood. The third and surviving child, Marion, would marry Charles Eliot Furness in 1875. He would be appointed as the territorial governor in 1849 by President Zachary Taylor, and while there he would also serve as the mayor of St. Paul, US Senator and secretary of war under President Hayes; as well as becoming a great businessman, making a large fortune in the real estate market. The couple chose the new upscale Irvine Park to build their dream house, and it would be started in 1868, getting all the latest technologies, including hot and cold running water, gas lighting and hot water radiators. Anna went on a luxurious shopping spree in 1872 to furnish the house; and while in one New York department store, she would purchase enough merchandise to fill two boxcars. Ramsey passed on in 1903, but Marion had already moved back with her parents by then with two small girls, Anita and Laura Furness, with all of them living in the house until they passed. When the Ramsey's were all gone, the house was left to the historical society that opened it as a museum and has operated it ever since.

January 11, 2011