James J. Hill House

James J. Hill House Rugged stone, massive scale, fine detail, and ingenious mechanical systems recall the powerful presence of James J. Hill, builder of the Great Northern Railway.
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Guides lead tours that help you imagine family and servant life in the Gilded Age mansion.

Operating as usual

In 1899, James J. Hill purchased land on the shores of the Saint John River, in Québec, Canada. He also leased exclusive...
07/31/2021

In 1899, James J. Hill purchased land on the shores of the Saint John River, in Québec, Canada. He also leased exclusive fishing rights from the government of Québec for an annual fee of $3,300.

Hill’s fishing lodge was designed by Hill’s Great Northern Railway architect James Brodie. The property also had bunkhouses for the canoe men and guides, storage sheds, and an ice/snow house.

Hill’s annual salmon fishing trips to the river were the only set vacations he had. Every year he invited close friends and family members to enjoy a fishing holiday. They fished and kept a record of each person’s catch, the weight and where it was caught. The salmon were quickly packed in ice and soon after taken by canoe to the yacht, where they were refrigerated and sent off to family, friends and business associates.

The lodge on the Saint John River is still owned by Hill family descendants, and still fished every year.

To learn more about the Hill Fishing Camp, come see our mini-exhibit, ‘Summertime With the Hill Family,’ now on display at the James J. Hill House. mnhs.org/hillhouse.org

#SummertimeWithTheHillFamily

Photos: James J. Hill fishing on the St. John River, ca. 1910; Hill’s fishing lodge, ca. 1901.

Overmantel.  #DailyDetails
07/31/2021

Overmantel. #DailyDetails

Overmantel. #DailyDetails

A nice write-up on the history of the Hill Family's North Oaks farm from Carrie Hatler's Forgotten Minnesota blog. Inclu...
07/30/2021
James J. Hill's North Oaks Farm — Forgotten Minnesota

A nice write-up on the history of the Hill Family's North Oaks farm from Carrie Hatler's Forgotten Minnesota blog. Includes a wonderful gallery of images.

#SummertimeWithTheHillFamily

James J. Hill was the preeminent transportation pioneer in the American Northwest. He arrived in St. Paul, Minnesota on a steamboat in 1856 and planned on becoming a trapper and trader. Instead, he found work with a steamboat company. During the Civil War, Hill learned the business of buying, sellin

These two photos show the two different houses used by the Hill family at their North Oaks farm.  The first photo (left)...
07/30/2021

These two photos show the two different houses used by the Hill family at their North Oaks farm.

The first photo (left) shows the estate’s original farmhouse, built before the Hills purchased the property in 1883. The Hills stayed in this house most summers from 1883 until 1914. The house had ample screen windows that allowed them to enjoy the breezes coming off a nearby lake.

Compared to their Summit Avenue mansion, the farmhouse was simple and modest. A St. Paul Globe reporter described the home as “unpretentious in style, and built rather for comfort than ornament.” Second Cook Celia Tauer was more blunt, writing to her boyfriend in 1910, “The farm is all right, but ghee, if I was a big bug like Mr. J. J. Hill, I wouldn’t stay out there in the shack.”

In 1912, construction began on a new, substantial brick residence that was completed in 1914. This home, shown in the second photo (right), was much larger, featuring 26 rooms and a number of both open and enclosed sleeping porches. In the early 1960s, this home and most other structures were torn down under the direction of Hill descendants to make way for new residential development.

#SummertimeWithTheHillFamily

Fireplace tile.  #DailyDetails
07/30/2021

Fireplace tile. #DailyDetails

Fireplace tile. #DailyDetails

Cattle at James J. Hill's North Oaks Farm, ca. 1911. North Oaks, located ten miles north of Saint Paul, was one of sever...
07/29/2021

Cattle at James J. Hill's North Oaks Farm, ca. 1911.

North Oaks, located ten miles north of Saint Paul, was one of several large farms owned by James J. Hill. Having grown up on a farm, and always keenly aware that his railroad profits were closely connected to agricultural production, Hill maintained a lifelong interest in farming and animal husbandry, and considered himself an authority on the subject.

Historians Biloine W. Young and Eileen McCormack succinctly described Hill’s agricultural interests in "The Dutiful Son," their biography of Louis Hill:

“[James J.] Hill saw himself as a ‘gentleman farmer’ after the model of the gentleman farmers in England and Canada. A gentleman farmer was a landowner who had the money and leisure to invest in agricultural experimentation, improve breeds of livestock, and introduce new technologies. Gentlemen farmers did not work the land themselves but hired workers and managers who followed the scientific dictates and directions of the owner. Gentlemen farmers founded agricultural societies, sponsored research, and disseminated the results of their work to the farmers living about them.”

Hill used his farm to experiment with developing new crop varieties and livestock breeds that were better suited to the harsh climates of the northern plains. Hill was particularly obsessed with developing a “dual-purpose” cow—a beef cow that could also produce large quantities of milk. Though he never fully achieved this goal, his Aberdeen Angus and Shorthorn beef cows frequently took home top prizes at state and county fairs.

#SummertimeWithTheHillFamily

Cattle at James J. Hill's North Oaks Farm, ca. 1911.

North Oaks, located ten miles north of Saint Paul, was one of several large farms owned by James J. Hill. Having grown up on a farm, and always keenly aware that his railroad profits were closely connected to agricultural production, Hill maintained a lifelong interest in farming and animal husbandry, and considered himself an authority on the subject.

Historians Biloine W. Young and Eileen McCormack succinctly described Hill’s agricultural interests in "The Dutiful Son," their biography of Louis Hill:

“[James J.] Hill saw himself as a ‘gentleman farmer’ after the model of the gentleman farmers in England and Canada. A gentleman farmer was a landowner who had the money and leisure to invest in agricultural experimentation, improve breeds of livestock, and introduce new technologies. Gentlemen farmers did not work the land themselves but hired workers and managers who followed the scientific dictates and directions of the owner. Gentlemen farmers founded agricultural societies, sponsored research, and disseminated the results of their work to the farmers living about them.”

Hill used his farm to experiment with developing new crop varieties and livestock breeds that were better suited to the harsh climates of the northern plains. Hill was particularly obsessed with developing a “dual-purpose” cow—a beef cow that could also produce large quantities of milk. Though he never fully achieved this goal, his Aberdeen Angus and Shorthorn beef cows frequently took home top prizes at state and county fairs.

#SummertimeWithTheHillFamily

Crown moulding.  #DailyDetails
07/29/2021

Crown moulding. #DailyDetails

Crown moulding. #DailyDetails

This label was custom printed for use on Mary Hill’s homemade wine and preserves. One of Mary Hill’s pastimes was making...
07/28/2021

This label was custom printed for use on Mary Hill’s homemade wine and preserves. One of Mary Hill’s pastimes was making preserves, jams, and wine from fruit grown on the family’s North Oaks farm.

Some of this work was done on the farm, but Mary Hill also sometimes worked on her preserves in the kitchen of the family’s St. Paul mansion—much to the annoyance of the kitchen staff. In 1910, Second Cook Celia Tauer wrote to her fiancé:

"The old lady was preserving for two days & she smired [sic] everything up with syrup & sugar that I was afraid she’d stick to something & that I’d have to keep her down in the kitchen all together.”

Some of Mary Hill’s recipes can be found in the Mary Hill papers in the archives of the Minnesota Historical Society’s Gale Family Library. Here is her basic recipe for grape wine:

“Wash grapes, mash with large potato masher and put in earthenware crock. Cover with cheesecloth, and let stand for 10 days, stirring frequently. Keep in cool place where temperature is even.

Press through fruit-press, but do not press hard enough to break seeds. Measure juice, and to every gallon add 3 lb. sugar.

Put in wooden keg with bung-hole open, but covered with cheesecloth. It will now ferment (4 to 7 weeks). When it stops fermenting, cork up the hole.

Let stand in keg two years. Then siphon into demijohns. After two weeks it may be bottled.”

#SummertimeWithTheHillFamily

This label was custom printed for use on Mary Hill’s homemade wine and preserves. One of Mary Hill’s pastimes was making preserves, jams, and wine from fruit grown on the family’s North Oaks farm.

Some of this work was done on the farm, but Mary Hill also sometimes worked on her preserves in the kitchen of the family’s St. Paul mansion—much to the annoyance of the kitchen staff. In 1910, Second Cook Celia Tauer wrote to her fiancé:

"The old lady was preserving for two days & she smired [sic] everything up with syrup & sugar that I was afraid she’d stick to something & that I’d have to keep her down in the kitchen all together.”

Some of Mary Hill’s recipes can be found in the Mary Hill papers in the archives of the Minnesota Historical Society’s Gale Family Library. Here is her basic recipe for grape wine:

“Wash grapes, mash with large potato masher and put in earthenware crock. Cover with cheesecloth, and let stand for 10 days, stirring frequently. Keep in cool place where temperature is even.

Press through fruit-press, but do not press hard enough to break seeds. Measure juice, and to every gallon add 3 lb. sugar.

Put in wooden keg with bung-hole open, but covered with cheesecloth. It will now ferment (4 to 7 weeks). When it stops fermenting, cork up the hole.

Let stand in keg two years. Then siphon into demijohns. After two weeks it may be bottled.”

#SummertimeWithTheHillFamily

Wine demijohn. #DailyDetailsEach year, Mary T. Hill made large quantities of wine from grapes grown at the family's Nort...
07/28/2021

Wine demijohn. #DailyDetails

Each year, Mary T. Hill made large quantities of wine from grapes grown at the family's North Oaks Farm and in the backyard of their Summit Avenue mansion. Second Cook Celia Tauer recalled that, during the summer months, Mary Hill would fill the basement hallway with large crocks of fermenting grapes.

Mary gave out many bottles and demijohns of wine as gifts to friends and family members. These gifts were always popular, especially after Prohibition went into effect in 1919 (it was illegal to buy or sell alcohol, but not illegal to produce or gift it for personal use).

This demijohn, with Mary Hill's handwritten label, is one of the artifacts that can be viewed in our mini-exhibit, ‘Summertime With the Hill Family,’ now on display at the James J. Hill House. mnhs.org/hillhouse.org

#SummertimeWithTheHillFamily

Wine demijohn. #DailyDetails

Each year, Mary T. Hill made large quantities of wine from grapes grown at the family's North Oaks Farm and in the backyard of their Summit Avenue mansion. Second Cook Celia Tauer recalled that, during the summer months, Mary Hill would fill the basement hallway with large crocks of fermenting grapes.

Mary gave out many bottles and demijohns of wine as gifts to friends and family members. These gifts were always popular, especially after Prohibition went into effect in 1919 (it was illegal to buy or sell alcohol, but not illegal to produce or gift it for personal use).

This demijohn, with Mary Hill's handwritten label, is one of the artifacts that can be viewed in our mini-exhibit, ‘Summertime With the Hill Family,’ now on display at the James J. Hill House. mnhs.org/hillhouse.org

#SummertimeWithTheHillFamily

“Among the many delightful drives about the environs of the city, few, if any, present greater attractions than the ten-...
07/27/2021

“Among the many delightful drives about the environs of the city, few, if any, present greater attractions than the ten-mile jaunt out Rice street, which brings up at the entrance gate to North Oaks, J. J. Hill's dairy and stock farm.”

So wrote a reporter for the St. Paul Globe in May of 1896, describing a visit to James J. Hill’s hobby farm and country estate. Hill had purchased the St. Paul Globe earlier that year to serve as a mouthpiece for his business interests. Not coincidentally, the newspaper began featuring frequent reports on the personal life and travels of James J. Hill.

The Globe reporter is at pains to emphasize the contrast between the tranquil countryside and the bustle of a growing city: “Leaving the clamorous pavement three miles out from the city's center, the carriage wheels roll out over the gentle, soundless country road. The carts and drays of commerce are no longer with us to obstruct and render intricate the way, and other vehicles are few and far between. The rushing street cars, perilous to our inexpert driving, have been left behind. There are no children to be run over, and no bicycle scorchers to dodge, for the acclivity of the way, easy to horse, is death to pedalists. . . .

“Here Mr. Hill and his family are accustomed to spend the greater part of the summer, far from cities and railroads and business cares pertaining to them,” the article continues, “for I doubt if even so momentous a matter as the Northern Pacific adjustment or the equally important affairs of the Great Northern dare intrude upon the tranquility of this peaceful place.”

You can read the full article at the Minnesota Historical Society’s Digital Newspaper hub: https://bit.ly/3xRIRgM

To learn more about North Oaks Farm, come see our mini-exhibit, ‘Summertime With the Hill Family,’ now on display at the James J. Hill House. mnhs.org/hillhouse

#SummertimeWithTheHillFamily

Photo: “James J. Hill’s Summer Home,” St. Paul Globe, May 10th, 1896.

“Among the many delightful drives about the environs of the city, few, if any, present greater attractions than the ten-mile jaunt out Rice street, which brings up at the entrance gate to North Oaks, J. J. Hill's dairy and stock farm.”

So wrote a reporter for the St. Paul Globe in May of 1896, describing a visit to James J. Hill’s hobby farm and country estate. Hill had purchased the St. Paul Globe earlier that year to serve as a mouthpiece for his business interests. Not coincidentally, the newspaper began featuring frequent reports on the personal life and travels of James J. Hill.

The Globe reporter is at pains to emphasize the contrast between the tranquil countryside and the bustle of a growing city: “Leaving the clamorous pavement three miles out from the city's center, the carriage wheels roll out over the gentle, soundless country road. The carts and drays of commerce are no longer with us to obstruct and render intricate the way, and other vehicles are few and far between. The rushing street cars, perilous to our inexpert driving, have been left behind. There are no children to be run over, and no bicycle scorchers to dodge, for the acclivity of the way, easy to horse, is death to pedalists. . . .

“Here Mr. Hill and his family are accustomed to spend the greater part of the summer, far from cities and railroads and business cares pertaining to them,” the article continues, “for I doubt if even so momentous a matter as the Northern Pacific adjustment or the equally important affairs of the Great Northern dare intrude upon the tranquility of this peaceful place.”

You can read the full article at the Minnesota Historical Society’s Digital Newspaper hub: https://bit.ly/3xRIRgM

To learn more about North Oaks Farm, come see our mini-exhibit, ‘Summertime With the Hill Family,’ now on display at the James J. Hill House. mnhs.org/hillhouse

#SummertimeWithTheHillFamily

Photo: “James J. Hill’s Summer Home,” St. Paul Globe, May 10th, 1896.

Mirror stand. #DailyDetails
07/27/2021

Mirror stand. #DailyDetails

Mirror stand. #DailyDetails

Rachel and Clara Hill picnicking at the family's North Oaks Farm, ca. 1905.#SummertimeWithTheHillFamily
07/26/2021

Rachel and Clara Hill picnicking at the family's North Oaks Farm, ca. 1905.

#SummertimeWithTheHillFamily

Rachel and Clara Hill picnicking at the family's North Oaks Farm, ca. 1905.

#SummertimeWithTheHillFamily

#OnThisDay in 1886, Mary T. Hill wrote in her diary: "A bright pleasant day, but hot... Mr. Chelminski glad to get back ...
07/26/2021

#OnThisDay in 1886, Mary T. Hill wrote in her diary: "A bright pleasant day, but hot... Mr. Chelminski glad to get back here."

Jan Władysław Chełmiński (1851-1925) was a Polish painter best known for painting historical subjects, including an acclaimed series of paintings illustrating the Napoleonic Wars. James J. Hill met Chełmiński on one of his early art buying trips to London, and commissioned Chełmiński to travel to the family's country estate to paint a series of group portraits. Chełmiński spent most of June, July, and August of 1886 at the Hill Family's North Oaks farm, located ten miles north of St. Paul.

In the end, Chełmiński produced three paintings that summer: one of the whole family by the steps of their North Oaks house, one of James J. Hill hunting with his sons James Norman and Louis, and one of Hill's eldest daughter Mamie horseback riding.

#SummertimeWithTheHillFamily

Louis Vuitton steamer trunk belonging to Rachel Hill.  #DailyDetailsIn 1896, fifteen-year-old Rachel Hill began her stud...
07/26/2021

Louis Vuitton steamer trunk belonging to Rachel Hill. #DailyDetails

In 1896, fifteen-year-old Rachel Hill began her studies at Miss Peebles and Miss A. K. Thompson’s French and English Boarding School, on East 57th Street at Madison Avenue in New York City. The school was one of dozens of elite boarding schools for girls located in Midtown Manhattan. Rachel studied music, French, horseback riding, and art.

Rachel took several trunks of clothing and belongings with her, including this trunk made by famed designer Louis Vuitton. After Rachel graduated in 1900, she went on a “Grand Tour” of Europe. Her trunk still bears stickers from customs at Hamburg, Germany.

Louis Vuitton steamer trunk belonging to Rachel Hill. #DailyDetails

In 1896, fifteen-year-old Rachel Hill began her studies at Miss Peebles and Miss A. K. Thompson’s French and English Boarding School, on East 57th Street at Madison Avenue in New York City. The school was one of dozens of elite boarding schools for girls located in Midtown Manhattan. Rachel studied music, French, horseback riding, and art.

Rachel took several trunks of clothing and belongings with her, including this trunk made by famed designer Louis Vuitton. After Rachel graduated in 1900, she went on a “Grand Tour” of Europe. Her trunk still bears stickers from customs at Hamburg, Germany.

Address

240 Summit Ave
Saint Paul, MN
55102

Opening Hours

Monday 10:00 - 16:00
Tuesday 10:00 - 16:00
Wednesday 10:00 - 16:00
Thursday 10:00 - 16:00
Friday 10:00 - 15:30
Saturday 10:00 - 16:00
Sunday 13:00 - 15:30

Telephone

(651) 297-2555

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Comments

This is the Hill mansion in Northcote, MN.
Hello Hill House! I made a video about art I've collected over the years and compared it to Hill's collection. Let me know if I got anything wrong. [And, yes, I mentioned taking a tour, but I know those won't happen this year -- just giving all of us a longer shelf life!] Thanks!
This man was a great grandson of James J. Hill. RIP
My 3rd great grandfather Oliver Daunais born 1836 in sorel quebec, died 1916 in kenora. Worked for Mr. Hill. :)
Meh. 1% parasite.
Went on the 3:30 tour last Saturday the 18th. Beverly was our guide and did a fantastic job! She obviously loves the house and being a guide. Very engaging and funny. 😆😆
Thank you Jessica, for being so accommodating for the Master Servant shoot!
Thoroughly enjoyed a tour of James J Hill House on this rainy Saturday morning, led by a passionate and knowledgable young lady, Bethany. What a St Paul gem, check out their Nooks and Crannies tours!
I'll try to get some better pictures during our next visit!
BEAUTIFUL old coal gas lamps. Definitely one of the coolest ways to light a room.
There are only TWO shows left with pre-sale seats available: Thursday March 8th and Sunday March 18th! Get them while you can The rest of the run is SOLD OUT! Thank you for this overwhelming response, we hope you enjoy the show!