The Gale Mansion is a beautiful historic mansion located just south of downtown Minneapolis. Built in 1912, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 40-acre area in Fairs Oaks was purchased in 1855 for $50 as a suburban development. Water records indicate that several smaller homes once occupied the Stevens Avenue site during its history.
The Original Owners
Edward Chenery Gale and Sara Bell Pillsbury are the original owners of the Gale Mansion. Mr. Gale was an attorney; and Mrs. Gale was the daughter of Governor and Mrs. John S. Pillsbury. As patrons of the arts, the Gales were leaders in the development of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which is located a block from their former residence. Through their European travels, the Gales developed a preference for the Italian Renaissance Revival style and commissioned Ernest Kennedy, a Minnesota architect, to design their home. Kennedy also designed the Alfred Pillsbury home at 2115 First Avenue. Inside the Bedford limestone mansion, many modern choices were made. For example, the kitchen occupies a portion of the first floor. Additionally, a central vacuum system was installed, and the home is equipped with an intercom and a maze of laundry chutes. Vestiges of these installations remain throughout the house.
History and Features
Originally heated with coal, the Gale Mansion has eight unique fireplaces, which were used infrequently and with great care. Today these fireplaces are decorative but not functional. Exquisite oak parquet floors grace the first floor. The black walnut staircase and the ornate ceilings were exceptional choices for 1912. There was a pipe organ in the alcove of the Great Hall. French doors in this alcove led to a terrace and curved staircase which descended into a lovely Italian garden. The “Duck Boy” sculpture by F. McMonnies was a part of a garden fountain. The iron gates, which are now part of the Gale Mansion signage, graced the north portion of the garden.
Edward and Sara Gale both died in 1943, leaving their only son, Richard, to care for their home. At the same time, the members of the Minneapolis Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) was outgrowing their location at 310 Groveland. The AAUW women approached Richard regarding the availability of his parental home for use as their general meeting space. Richard agreed, and a handshake sealed the deal. The AAUW purchased 2115 Stevens Avenue for $50,000 in 1947. Some modifications were made to accommodate large groups, particularly on the lower level. In 1962 the AAUW identified their need for auditorium space and decided to build on the site of the garden. For additional information on the AAUW Minneapolis Branch, please visit their website at http://minneapolis-mn.aauw.net/.
National Register of Historic Places
In 1977 the Gale Mansion was placed the National Register of Historic Places. In 2011 the Gale Mansion remodeling project was one of the eight building project awards recognized by Preserve Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission, and the Minneapolis chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The awards recognize projects and people that “celebrate and enhance the heritage and historic character of Minneapolis.” Carolyn Humphrey, Tamra Nelson, and Sheila Lind represented the branch at the award luncheon as guests of MacDonald & Mack Architects.
The Gale Mansion’s addition “is an example of adapting a historic building to fit modern needs. A handicapped accessible elevator was installed between the original structure and a modern addition in such a way to blend in and not call attention to itself.” The Minneapolis Project Team included the American Association of University Women–Minneapolis Branch, MacDonald & Mack Architects, and Watson Forsberg Construction.