Restoring Gilded Age mansion James J Hill House

Who is J. James Hill

Irish immigrants Hill’s parents gave birth to him on September 16, 1838, in southern Ontario. At the age of nine, he was injured by a bow and arrow, and for the rest of his life, he was blind in his right eye.

Hill and a few other investors bought the virtually bankrupt St. Paul and Pacific Railroad in 1878 after working for 20 years in the shipping industry on the Mississippi and Red rivers.

Hill had a chance encounter with a waitress in 1864 while dining frequently at the Merchants Hotel in St. Paul. The Irish immigrants who established in the frontier town of St. Paul in 1850 gave birth to Mary Theresa Mehegan in New York City in 1846.

James J Hill House, one of the richest and most influential individuals of America’s Gilded Age, passed away in his Summit Avenue house on May 29, 1916, having accumulated a personal fortune estimated to be worth $63 million and more than $200 million in connected assets.

James J Hill house History

A gigantic mansion in the then-popular Richardsonian Romanesque style was constructed by the Boston architectural firm Peabody, Stearns & Furber, which was also noted for its spectacular mansions at Newport, Rhode Island. The overall price for the three-acre estate’s construction, furniture, and landscaping came to $931,275.01.

As if it were a brand-new railroad branch, Hill oversaw the house’s design, building, and outfitting. He told Tiffany & Company that their ideas for stained glass windows were “everything but what I want,” and when the architects disobeyed his instructions to the stonecutters, he even replaced them. He gave the job to his Boston-based interior design company, Irving and Casson, to complete. On the first and second floors, a sizable portion of the unique furniture they created was present.

James J. Hill, a giant of the St. Paul railroad industry, built this 36,000 SF “museum” and former residence in 1891. The site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961, and the Minnesota Historical Society eventually purchased it.

James J Hill House’s architectural style

At a time when other houses in the area were built by regional architects like Clarence Johnston and Cass Gilbert, the house was created by an East Coast architectural firm called Peabody, Stearns and Furber. The house was built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, which is known for its enormous, uncompromising architecture that includes haphazardly sized stone blocks, powerful pillars, rounded arches, and a generally solid horizon

Interior of James Hill House

A gallery in the inside once displayed Hill’s collection of paintings and sculptures. It even had a pipe organ, which was added after Hill was informed that other affluent people’s homes had pipe organs. The home’s illumination was a combination of gas and electricity, with rotary switches on the walls to turn on the latter. Yet, since electricity was mainly utilized for illumination at the time, there were no fixed electrical outlets.

Intricate hand-carved woodwork can be found throughout the home, especially in the formal dining room, music room, and central hallway. Although not having hand carved woodwork, other rooms in the house, particularly those on the second floor where the majority of the family members resided, nonetheless feature brightly colored and finely detailed woodwork.

Important dates in the lives of James J Hill and the owners of the Hill House.

16 September 1838

  • In southern Ontario, Canada, James J Hill is born into a Scotch-Irish agricultural family.

July 21, 1856

Hill, who is 17 years old, takes a riverboat to St. Paul where he starts working as a shipping clerk.


In the Merchants Hotel, Hill encounters Mary Theresa Mehegan, a waitress who is 18 years old.


Mary and James are wed.


Hill makes an investment in the failing St. Paul & Pacific Railroad together with four other people. The St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railroad is now known as that. Hill expanded to Canada and then the Pacific Ocean as general manager.


The Hill family’s magnificent new home on exclusive Summit Avenue starts to take shape. The enormous red sandstone palace, which cost $931,275.01 to construct, is finished in 1891 in the then-fashionable Richardson Romanesque style. It is the biggest private residence in the state, measuring 36,000 square feet.


The recently renamed Great Northern Railway has been completed across the country to Washington’s Puget Sound. J. Pierpont Morgan, a financier, invented the title “Empire Builder” for Hill. Due to an eye damage he sustained as a child, he is also referred to by less flattering names as the “Oregon Robber,” the “Scourge of the Orient,” and the “One-Eyed Bandit”.

James J. Hill passes away in his bedroom on May 29, 1916, at the age of 77. Mary Hill stays there all the way up until her passing on November 21, 1921. Despite the reported $63 million Hill fortune, neither leaves a will.


The Hill children give the house to the Catholic Church, which uses it for a number of reasons throughout the course of 53 years, including as a teachers’ college and office space.


A National Historic Landmark designation has been given to The Hill House.


The Hill House is purchased by the Minnesota Historical Society, who then restores it as a historic site.

Restoring James J. Hill House’s historic pipe organ

Saint Paul, Minnesota The antique pipe organ of the James J. Hill Mansion is currently undergoing conservation work.
The 1891-built organ is housed in the art gallery of the Summit Avenue residence. It has more than 1,000 pipes and extends over three storeys of the residence.

The project, which is expected to cost $141,000, was made possible by private contributors Dr. George and Joan Fischer and Martin V. Chorzempa.

The organ last had extensive preservation work done on it in 1988.

“We are aware that it has a loud voice, but we have never been able to really hear it. The sound it makes when it returns will be fantastic for us, in my opinion “said herbaly.

Sometime at the end of the summer or in the early fall, the project will be finished.

The Minnesota Historical Society now owns the J.J. Hill House, which is a designated National Historic Landmark.

Guided House Tour to james j hill house

The price of admission includes a 60-minute guided tour of the full house as well as self-directed access to the mansion’s first floor.

James J hill house photos

People also ask :

How much did the James J Hill house cost?


A gigantic mansion in the then-popular Richardsonian Romanesque style was constructed by the Boston architectural firm Peabody, Stearns & Furber, which was also noted for its spectacular mansions at Newport, Rhode Island.

Who lived in the James J Hill house?

In 1916, James Hill passed away at the home, and Mary Hill passed away five years later. The home was given to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis by family members in 1925.

Who owns the James J Hill house?

Hill passed away in 1916, his wife passed away in 1921, and the kids ultimately left home. The home was purchased from the estate by four of the daughters in 1925, who then presented it to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

What made James J Hill famous?

The Great Northern Railroad was built under the direction of James Jerome Hill (1838–1916), who is best known as the “Empire Builder” for founding a company that controlled important lines in the country’s north.

Who owns the one most expensive house?

Saghian Richard

Richard Saghian claimed to have made the highest offer for “The One” home in Bel-Air. He also owns two other properties in Southern California, including a beach property in Malibu that he paid Ted Sarandos, the CEO of Netflix, $14.7 million for last year.

How much is James J. Hill House worth today?

Ramsey County determined that the property had an estimated market worth of $3.1 million.

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