A Hill and a Capitol

Kelly’s class, out front at the James J. Hill House.

Today, I got to go on a fieldtrip with Kelly and her sixth grade class.  We went to the James J. Hill House on Summit Avenue in St. Paul and then over to our beautiful, State Capitol.

We started the trip at the James J. Hill House.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with James J. Hill, his full name is James Jerome Hill (September 16, 1838 – May 29, 1916), was a Canadian-American railroad executive. He was the chief executive officer of a family of lines headed by the Great Northern Railway, which served a substantial area of the Upper Midwest, the northern Great Plains, andPacific Northwest. Because of the size of this region and the economic dominance exerted by the Hill lines, Hill became known during his lifetime as The Empire Builder.  In 1867, James J. Hill married Mary Theresa Mehegan, born in 1846 in New York City. They had ten children.  No wonder they needed this large house!

We saw so many neat things inside and I wish I could show you it all, but here are a few highlights from inside this gorgeous place.  Enjoy my “slide show”, if you will.

Potbelly stove in the basement where many servants cooked for the Hills.

No washing machines invented yet, only washboards & sinks.

The boiler room, for keeping this huge place warm.

One of many gorgeous chandeliers.

A pipe organ that no one knew how to play. Guess how many pipes are on it?
1,006 pipes!

A grand table in the grand dining room. This was my favorite room!

They had many fireplaces. I love the mosaic tiles around it.

The porch on the back of the house.

We all enjoyed this tour and would love to go back again and go on the “Nooks & Cranny” tour.  On that tour, you get to see all the roped off areas and where some of the hidden doors lead to.  Most importantly, you get to hear that pipe organ!  Fun!

Next, we headed down a few blocks to our Minnesota State Capitol.  This is another huge building with lots of marble floors and very high ceilings.  It is a busy place and quite loud.  People are coming and going and there are so many rooms in here, that you could easily get lost if you’re not familiar with the layout.  I felt like we were going in circles the entire tour.

Out front at the Capitol.

The first destination our guide took us to, was to see the famous gold horses and chariot high atop of the Capitol.  We took a very narrow, winding stairwell all the way to the top.  These stairs were built for the custodians to use when and if they needed to get on the roof and do repairs.  I was getting a bit dizzy by the  time we got to the top.  When we reached the top, we were up 200 feet and then we went outside.   Once we got outside, we all let out a gasp at what we were seeing.  These beautiful golden horses that we have all seen from such a distance, were right in front of us.  That was neat and well worth the climb.

So shiny in the bright sunshine.

The Chariot!

Cathedral straight ahead. Cool view from up here!

The rest of our tour took place inside and safely on the ground.  We mainly walked around with our guide to a few rooms and he tried to get us into the Governor’s office, but unfortunately, we were unable to see it.  We did see the main room where the senate meets but they were in-session, so we had to pass through quietly and just peek at what all of those people do in there.  I think they were still discussing where to build the next football stadium.  ha~   We moved on.

One of many meeting rooms. It’s like a movie theater in there.

The rest of the tour, we spent in the main hallway where the Minnesota Symbol stands in the middle.  L’Étoile du Nord is a French phrase meaning “The Star of the North“. It is the motto of the U.S. state of Minnesota.[1] It was chosen by the state’s first governor, Henry Hastings Sibley, and was adopted in 1861, three years after admission of Minnesota to the union.[2] Because of this motto, one of Minnesota’s nicknames is The North Star State. The Minnesota North Stars chose the English translation for their name.

Kelly stands by the Star.

Looking up to the dome where the chandelier usually is. It’s being cleaned.

Spectacular architecture in here.

Marble pillars.

Future politicians?

We sure had a great day and wonderful 73 degree weather to go along with it.  I think all the kids and adults learned a little about our state today and some neat history on Summit Avenue.   A successful fieldtrip~

Hanging out with a couple of State Senators.

Not protesting, just enjoying the lovely sunshine on the front steps.



  1. I love the James j. Hill house. I would love to go on the nook and crannie tour. I wonder how you do that? I did not like those stairs to see the horses. That scared me a lot. The capital was beautiful. You had a great day for it today! Great pictures!

  2. We toured the Hill house some years ago with my brother and I remember alot of it – especially the laundry room! Ugh. Thanks for the memory jog with the pictures. What a house! The Capitol is something to see too. Two hundred feet up there? Sure you were glad you climbed all those steps when you saw what was up there. Many years ago, one of “my ladies” at the nursing home told us (several times!) of growing up in St Paul where she and her friends used the Capitol building as a sort of playground – sliding down the bannisters… and you gave us a tour of the cathedral. Also impressive. Fun field trip!

  3. We were wondering if you two had ever been to this Hill House. I know how much you enjoy history.

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