Historic Structures

James J. Hill House, St Paul Minnesota

Date added: April 15, 2010 Categories: Minnesota House Mansion Richardsonian Romanesque

Constructed in 1889 and said to have cost $200,000, this 32-room house was the home of James Jerome Hill. One of the show places of St. Paul, the mansion was his home until his death in 1916.

Mrs. Hill maintained the house after Hill's death in 1916 until her own death five years later. In 1925, family members purchased the mansion from the estate and presented it to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul. For the next half century the structure served as an office building, school, and residence for the church until it was acquired by the Minnesota Historical Society in 1978.

Hill was not only one of the nation's great railroad builders but was a financial leader as well. Born in Ontario, Canada, in 1839, he began work at the age of 14 in a country store. In 1856, he went to St. Paul where he became interested in the trading business.

In 1865, he became agent of the Northwestern Packet Co. Ten years later he organized the Northwestern Fuel Company. In 1878, he gave his major attention to the transportation on the Red River to Fort Garry (now Winnepeg). In that year Hill and several others purchased the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad. Under his leadership, this railroad, under the name of St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba, extended its line to the Pacific, He then organized, for construction purposes, other railroads in the Northwest. In 1890, all of the Hill-controlled railroads were combined under one corporated unit as the Great Northern Railway Company, Hill served first as general manager of the system, 1879-1881; vice president, 1881-1882; president, 1882-1907; and chairman of the board, 1907-1912.

Over-all dimensions: The three-story-plus-attic house is built on a generally rectangular plan, and features two projecting pavilions flanking a rather massive porte cochere.

The interior has been greatly altered since it was purchased by the archdiocese.

Take a tour of the home, or read more about the history of the home and the Hill family at the James J. Hill website for the Minnesota Historical Society.