Monday, October 24, 2011

back in time

Heather and Riley joined us for the extended weekend.  What a treat!  (This is a very lengthy post, be forewarned....)

Before they had arrived, I had been perusing the Garage Sale classifieds in the paper, on the off chance that we would be able to go to that last sale of the season.  We love treasure hunting.  There were none close to my neighborhood, but my eye was caught by a very long Estate Sale ad, further up the page.

I was immediately intrigued.  A 15 bedroom mansion on a 200 acre estate, including everything from five hundred 78 rpm records, to a vast library of books,  to linens, many monogrammed "H".  Sleighs, buffalo robes, china, silver, how could we not go and check it out?  It was the estate of the last surviving great grand daughter of James J. Hill.

We had already planned to hit up Pine Tree Apple Orchard while she was here, so when I saw the location of the estate I knew it was meant to be-it was a mere 2 miles from the orchard, in Dellwood.

The day dawned frosty with clear blue skies.  We wound our north, enjoying all of the sights along the way.
Cars lining both sides of the road up ahead confirmed the location, seeing how many cars were parked on the property we decided street parking was the way to go.
We entered the driveway, marked by brick pillars, and began our trek.  We first came along some outbuildings,  the most modern one held old sleighs and buggies once pulled by horses.  My imagination was already wandering, envisioning those adventures.
We walked further, stately old oaks were splashed with color.  A long neglected fence rail led to another building on the estate.  I wondered who had lived there, the gardener?
The drive led further along, to a five stall garage.  We wandered through, and I was intrigued by the old intercom system-with bells to ring the kitchen and other parts of the house.  Clay pots, old garden hand tools, and ladders were offered up for sale.
We glimpsed the ancient greenhouse, with plans to explore it further after checking out the house.

Approaching the main house, we found a white painted brick structure facing the small lake below.  I glimpsed huge screened porches, and also the large line of people waiting to get in.   Many were more interested in touring the house than buying anything, I heard snippets of conversation as we waited.  "It hasn't been lived in for years",  "my friend was walking over here to explore one day and was chased off the property by a caretaker with a gun", "can you imagine what it would cost to heat this place?", "look at those amazing metal gutters".
The building was neglected but still had elements of beauty, a beautifully carved lintel over the door, interesting light fixtures, and ancient ivy spreading it's fingers along the windows and walls.
As we watched earlier shoppers leaving the building with an old mixer, a vintage sewing machine table, and other treasures, we giddily imagined what we would find inside.  It was finally our turn to enter, and the first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful old wall coverings, and lovely floors.  People were moving from room to room, looking for glimpses of a time long gone.

Main floor rooms held tables full of gorgeous old linens, endless tablecloths and napkins, antique lace, blankets and towels.  I imagined the parties held here, sparkling crystal and shining silver, women in gloves and men in tuxedos.
The wood paneled library was brimming with books, 78 rpm records, a grand piano, and endless rolls of music.  The porches offered up old darkroom equipment, leather luggage, huge cedar boxes where blankets and pillows had been stored, and buffalo robes for those cold winter sleigh rides.  As I walked the hall I could very nearly see the occupants of times past, small children racing down the stairway on a Christmas morning, elegantly dressed guests gathered around the piano singing a song, people in light linen sitting on the verandas in the summertime drinking lemonade out of cut crystal glasses while children played croquet on the huge lawn.
We walked through the pantries and kitchens and other main floor spaces, I picked up some great porcelain and metal pieces, and some English pudding molds.  Heather spent most of her time browsing through the huge stacks of old sheet music, their artistic covers had caught her eye.  I headed up to the second floor, and several of the bedrooms were open and full of interesting things:  christening gowns and crib blankets and old rolls of wallpaper.  Maid's uniforms and linens and furs and racks of old clothing could be found with silver service storage bags and bedroom sets.  I picked up a wonderful box full of old satin and silk ribbons and seam tapes, just what I was hoping I would find.
Again I imagined the home's occupants; guests sitting on the beautifully upholstered furniture in front of their sitting room fireplace, perhaps working on needlepoint or reading a book before they headed down to dinner.  Maids donning their aprons and hats before heading down to serve at a special banquet.  A woman of the house in front of her dressing table, brushing her hair, spritzing herself with expensive perfume, perhaps exclaiming over a hat her husband had just given her in a pretty hatbox.
We were there for nearly two hours, completely engrossed in the experience.  We checked out the glass greenhouse, realizing it had been years since it had been used.
Again my imagination went wild, seeing it full of green and blooming plants that found their way across the estate in huge urns, or in arrangements that graced the dining tables.
Happy and full of images of the past, we headed off to our next adventure.

Thanks to my sister for all of the great pictures!


  1. What a FUN adventure, you two! Kristi, I love your vivid imagination. I think you should write a book someday.

  2. I would have loved visiting that house. It looks amazing! I was hoping at the end of your post you were going to say, "And I'm buying the house and renovating it back to it's former glory." That's what I dream of doing. (But with someone else funding it!)

  3. Oh that sounds incredible. I cannot wait to see your finds.


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