Monday, October 29, 2012

Summit Hill House Tour

This past September, my neighbor and I volunteered for the Summit Hill Association's 2012 House Tour. I had attended the late fall candlelight house tour in 2011 and fell in love with the houses and courtesies of the homeowners. This year, the house tour was on a beautiful, hot, autumn Sunday. We picked up the early shift for a MASSIVE house and were able to together monitor the bedroom of the family's eldest son. It was so much fun trying to make the story of who this guy was based on the photos, plaques, yearbooks, relics, and posters throughout the room. So many people that came into the room said it was better than the master bedroom - after all, he had his own rooftop balcony and sitting room off the main bedroom! The house was built in the late 1800s and had its own enormous indoor pool. It was a crazy beautiful house (not pictured). After our shift was over, we bummed away a few hours touring other houses. We were able to hit up 7 of the 12 houses on the tour, and oh my did we love pretending we lived in these houses!

I HIGHLY recommend the Summit Hill House Tour to everyone - local or not!

What do you see in the photo below? Some seriously cool art!

The house pictured below was not like any other house I have seen before in the Summit Hill area. Very gothic and dark. On a hot day like it was, this home's stone walls and floors made for a cool place to relax in. The basement had the original a/c in place - very old technology but very interesting to see!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bucket List | Pipestone National Monument

I have wanted to visit the Pipestone National Monument for at least the last 7 years and am so glad we finally made it.  What an amazing and beautiful place! We are so lucky to have such a sacred, one-of-a-kind, and wonderful place like Pipestone right here in our great state of Minnesota. The history of Pipestone is incredibly spiritual for the Native Americans and to this day is still held as a sacred site.  

Most of the quarries at Pipestone have been handed down from generation to generation and others have been passed over to those on the pages and pages long waiting list. You have to quarry at your site at least once a year or it will be handed off to the next person on the waiting list. You must prove you are Native American through a tedious approval process just to get on the waiting list.  Yes, there have been many people who have faked their heritage to get a quarry!  

We went off the beaten tourist trail on down to the active quarries and walked up to the friendly face of a Native American man named Jerry from Kansas City.  He was so full of stories, I could have sat there all day listening and talking to him! He and a friend have had their quarry for the past 15 years and had likely quarried a total of 50 tons of pipestone.  Given the heavy weight of the pipestone, he said that really isn't much for 15 years of digging. However, there are no power tools used in the quarrying process. Shovels, picks, hammers, and wheelbarrows are all of the tools allowed. To get to the pure, bright red pipestone, several feet (sometimes dozens and dozens) deep of quartzite have to be cut through. I believe quartzite is the second hardest rock, but don't quote me on that. In my eyes, 50 tons is VERY impressive for 15 years of manual labor! 

I won't get into the history of Pipestone because I want everyone to go see and learn for themselves! It is an emotional story, both in terms of the Native American story about Pipestone's origin and the US government's role in Pipestone's story. 

Admission to the park is $3.00 per person and is good for 7 days.  A heckuva deal! I regret not going back there to watch the sunset but will forever remember the cascading waterfalls, smell of the prairie under the warm August sun, and the sound of the beating drums and song from the sun dance.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fort Ridgley | Southwest Minnesota

Interesting historical facts from Fort Ridgely:

  • The camp was occupied by mostly men. There were four families living in two of the houses in the fort. There were four or five women and a few children. The women did mostly "womanly" duties around the fort but also stepped up during the wartime and manufactured bullets and helped the Dr. across camp defend and protect his building. I wonder just how much corruption there was with so few females at camp, let alone available women!
  • The actual footprint of the camp was much smaller than I imagined it would be (I must just be used to the massive forts in Puerto Rico!). Granted you can only see foundation rubble today, it still doesn't look like much total acreage and really small buildings. The bluff views over the Minnesota River were beautiful. 
  • During the video viewing in the main building, there was a less than 5 second blip about the hangings in Mankato. It was really awkward because it wasn't part of the original video and seemed to be shoved in there as an after-fact to make someone happy. I asked one of the tour guides why that was and she said they didn't go into detail on the hangings because it wasn't politically correct. did happen, it is a fact, and it was the largest hanging in US History, so stop pussy footing around and be honest about it! It was very interesting to see how the other sites along our museum tour route spent more time talking about the hangings than the Fort did!
  • Fort Ridgely is also a Minnesota State Park (another tick mark in our booklet/bucket list of MN State Parks to visit)! There is a private cemetery and a golf course there, for your enjoyment as well.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Southwest Minnesota | Anniversary Weekend

Dustin and I continued our "A Minnesota Anniversary" tradition for our August wedding anniversary this year. We selected Southwestern Minnesota based on my long time bucket list wish of seeing Pipestone National Monument. It is too far for a day trip and too much between here and there and back to make it a weekend trip, so we extended our visit to three days and hit up tons of tourist spots along the way.

We are Minnesota Historical Society members and decided to hit up all the museums and historic sites in SW MN. It wasn't until after I mapped out our three day itinerary that I realized we were tracing almost the exact reverse route of the US Dakota War of 1862. Dually interesting to note, is that the months of August and September mark the 150 year anniversary of the war. I am ashamed to admit that I was completely unaware of this war that had momentous historical impact on our state and the horrible stories that led up to and resulted from the war. Visiting the various sites was a bit overwhelming at times, but also incredibly enlightening.

We started our journey in Minneapolis and headed SW stopping first in Fairfax, MN to tour Fort Ridgely; cruised down the road to see Harkin's General Store;  then drove further south and stopped in Morton, MN to take a moment of silence and walk around the Birch Coulee Battlefield; then finally visited the Lower Sioux Agency and stopped to rest our heads on  the pillows at the historic (haunted) Calumet Inn. Bonus: we ate the best sirloin steak of our lives at the Calumet Inn restaurant.

On Day 2 we went to Pipestone National Park (yay, finally!) and then got our money's worth out of our annual state park pass and went to Blue Mounds State Park to see the bison and the deserted, tiny Split Rock Creek Park to get bullied by the park ranger.

On the way home, on the final day of our anniversary weekend, we drove slightly out of the way to view Jeffers Petroglyphs. All in all, it was a fantastic Minnesota tourist weekend and I recommend visiting all of the sites and taking in the full experience of each (follow the trails, watch the videos, read the signs by the artifacts, etc.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Reflections | St. Paul & Mississippi River

Views along the Mississippi River from a Padelford Riverboat...

I am curious to know what on earth that rope/alligator tail looking thing is hanging from the upper right window!

Oh St. Paul! Le sigh...

The water levels sure have been high over the past few years. The top notch marked on the tubing was higher than the top of the tallest riverboat! That was just last year in March! Hard to believe now, hard to believe then!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

James J. Hill House | St. Paul

Dustin and I have taken a few weekends this summer and played "local tourist." We both had several days off over the 4th of July and hit up my love, St. Paul, for a day of exploring.

It has been a forever wish of mine to tour the James J. Hill house on Summit Ave in St. Paul. I can't even pretend to count how many times I have driven or walked by the mansion. It is massive, beautiful, and on a scale of everything else that can't be compared to anything else.  The house was built in 1891for $931, 275.01. That's A LOT of money for the late 1800s!! Apparently, Mr. Hill paid meticulous attention to detail, hence the exact price of the house all of the way down the penny. 

The house is 36,000 feet with five floors. My house's square footage could almost fill the first floor hallway of this place! Surprisingly, there were no additions built onto the house after it was finished. The house that stands there today is exactly the same as it was in 1891 (other than a few modern updates to the electrical wiring, heating, cooling, etc.). The house boasts its own art gallery and five floor organ - which is played once a month to keep it in tune and working. Can you imagine? An organ of that size that plays music throughout a house that big? You can definitely say surround sound!

I enjoyed the tour so much, I plan to go back someday. However, for the sake of full disclosure, I admit that I am a bit of an old-mansion-tour-junkie. The James J. Hill House almost rivals the Glensheen Mansion, in my books of Minnesota great old mansions. Heck, people died in both houses. Of course, there was a murder at Glensheen and on the other end of the spectrum - good 'ol Jim died naturally in his home (no ghosts from the sounds of it there). I learned so much about the history of St. Paul, Minneapolis, and the railroad lines - all thanks to James J. Hill. It is a great historical learning experience - stuff you probably didn't learn in school. I know I didn't, this was all new to me!  If you have a chance, I HIGHLY recommend touring the James J. Hill house. Completely worth the $9 for the tour!