July 23, 2013 – St Paul – Minnesota State Capitol – Cathedral of St. Paul – James J. Hill Mansion

With  one day available, we initially set our sights on the Minnesota Capitol Building, which we’d been told was, along with those in Harrisburg, PA and Austin, TX, were the three most magnificent in the country. 


The Capitol was built on a limestone foundation with a framework of steel and walls of brick and stone.  The exterior was faced with white Georgia marble and the interior with Kasota limestone quarried in Minnesota.  Steel beams were fireproofed with poured concrete and hollow clay tiles.  A massive lathe turned the 8,000 lb. columns, and air chisels made stone carving easier and faster.  A power plant was constructed next door to provide electricity for lighting and elevators.

The Quadriga

Central Atrium

Dome over the Atrium

Governor’s Reception Room

House Chamber

Senate Chamber

Supreme Court Chamber

Marble Columns

Capstone for Marble Columns

Marble Staircase Spindles

Senate Chamber Artwork

Interior Hallway Ceilings

While quite spectacular, I’d rank it behind Harrisburg’s capitol building which we visited last fall.

Across from the Capitol Building was a memorial dedicated to the veterans of World War II,

with additional memorials and monuments on the adjoining grounds:

Charles Lindbergh (as a boy)

(and as a man)

Lief Erickson

Christopher Columbus

Civil Rights Champion Roy Wilkins

Fallen Fire Fighters

Peace Officers Memorial

Living Veterans

Nathan Hale

Hubert H, Humphrey (Mayor of Minneapolis 1945-45, US Senator 1949-64 and 1971-78 and Vice President 1965-1968)

Visible from the Quadriga level of the Capitol is the Cathedral of St Paul.

The ten minute walk up Selby Avenue brought us to the largest church in the city.

The nearly 100 year old Cathedral of St. Paul was the vision of Archbishop John Ireland, and architect and devoted Catholic Emmanuel Louis Masquery and based on the architecture of the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica.  Construction of the building commenced in 1907 and the exterior was completed in 1914. Work on the interior proceeded at a slower pace, as funding allowed, but the Cathedral was able to hold the first Mass in the partially completed building on Easter Sunday in 1915.

Masquery died in 1917, before completing his design for the interior. Archbishop Ireland passed away only a year later. Archbishop Ireland’s successors, Archbishop Dowling and Bishop John Murray, oversaw work on the interior, which was to take until 1941 to complete.

The Cathedral of St. Paul is considered to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals in America. The design is in the Beaux-Art style and was inspired by Renaissance cathedrals in France.   The exterior is Minnesotan St. Cloud granite. The interior walls are American Travertine from Mankato, Minnesota, and the interior columns are made of several types of marble.

Topping the Cathedral is a 120-foot wide copper dome. A lantern on top of the dome brings the total height of the Cathedral to 306 feet tall from the base to the top of the lantern.  The interior space is no less impressive. As you walk into the Cathedral, watch out for the people visiting the cathedral for the first time. They tend to stop abruptly in front of you to stare at the stunning interior.

Laid out in a Greek cross, the interior is bright and open. Masquery envisioned a Cathedral with no obstructions for anyone attending Mass.  The interior ceiling soars to 175 feet high at the top of the 96 feet wide dome. At the base of the dome, stained glass windows let in light, and more several windows pierce the walls. 


Diagonally across the street from the Cathedral is the 36,000 sq. ft. James J. Hill Mansion, completed in 1898 it over 20 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, 22 fireplaces, a two-story art gallery indoor, indoor plumbing, electricity, and even a security system.

James Hill (1838 – 1916),

who dropped out of school at age 14, became a pivotal force in the transformation of the Northwest as his railroad provided the backbone for American settlement, agricultural development and commercial expansion.  At the time of his death, he was one of the wealthiest men in the United States.

He built his mansion both to symbolize his success and to provide suitable home for his wife, Mary

and their children (two of their 10 children died in childhood). 


The interior of the mansion is remarkable!

Grand Staircase


James Hill’s Private Office

Dining Room

Art Gallery Organ

Example of the Woodworking Detail Throughout the House

Sconces (three electric bulbs and two gas lights)

One of 16 matching crystal chandeliers

James Hill’s Bedroom (Note the built-ins)

Built at a cost of just under $1,000,000 (in 1898 dollars), including land and furnishings; there are no current estimates on a replacement value.

After leaving Hill’s mansion, we drove down his street where we were treated to dozens of Victorian, Romanesque, Baroque and other period homes.









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