James J. Hill House

240 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota

Completed in 1891, for James Jerome Hill (1838-1916) and his wife Mary Theresa Mehegan (1846-1921). Recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1961, the Richardsonian Romanesque James J. Hill House is Minnesota's best surviving example of a mansion from the American Gilded Age....

This house is best associated with...

James Jerome Hill

James J. Hill, Railroad Magnate, "The Empire Builder" of St. Paul, Minnesota


Mary (Mehegan) Hill

Mrs Mary Theresa (Mehegan) Hill, of St. Paul, Minnesota


James J. Hill grew up in Canada and settled at St. Paul in Minnesota when he was eighteen. As President of the Great Northern Railway he became known as "The Empire Builder" of the North West and died worth an estimated $63 million having justly earned his place in history as one of the country's most successful entrepreneurs, who, unlike Vanderbilt and Harriman, built his empire without the benefit of any federal subsidies. 

The home he built on three acres of landscaped gardens reflected his success, being the largest (36,500 square feet) and most expensive ($931,275) in Minnesota. Run by a staff of between ten and twelve domestic servants, the mansion is entered via an 88-foot reception hall and the interior is decked out in elaborately carved oak and mahogany woodwork. It stands over five stories high containing 13-bathrooms, 22-fireplaces, 16-cut-glass chandeliers, and a two-story skylit art gallery with a three-story pipe organ built by the celebrated George Hutchings of Boston.

In 1899, the Hills entertained President William McKinley and four of their daughters (Clara, Charlotte, Ruth and Rachel) were married here in the Drawing Room. Mrs. Hill outlived her husband, remaining in the house until her own death in 1921. Four years later, their children gave the mansion to the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul when it served as an office building, school, and church residence until it was acquired by the Minnesota Historical Society in 1978. They continue to run it today as a popular museum.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 11/11/2018 and last updated on 09/01/2023.


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