Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Historic Mansions on the Upper Mississippi River

Gabrielle Here:

I thought it would be fun to share some pictures of my childhood home today (no, it wasn't one of these gorgeous mansions!). My dad was the caretaker for the Musser & Weyerhaeuser Estate (above) on the banks of the Mississippi River and we lived in the carriage house below the hill. It sounds a bit like Sabrina, doesn't it? The estate wasn't quite as elaborate as the one in the movie, but it was still a very magical place to grow up. I had a unique upbringing, to say the least, and it greatly impacted my love for history.

This was my childhood home, the carriage house. From the house,
we had a picturesque view of the Mississippi River.

This areal view (courtesy of shows the mansions on the hill above the river.
The carriage house is just to the left of the white mansion.
Here's a view of the Mississippi from near the carriage house.

Here's a bit of the history of the estate:

Richard Drew Musser Home
Charles A. Weyerhaeuser and Richard “Drew” Musser came to Minnesota in 1891 and managed the Pine Tree Lumber Company, which was founded in 1890 by their fathers.

The Weyerhaeuser Home (green house) and Musser home (white house) are neighboring mansions that occupy nine acres of wooded land on top of a small bluff called Linden Hill, overlooking the Mississippi river. These homes were designed by Clarence H. Johnston, the most significant architectural figure in Minnesota, and they were built in the shingle style in 1898.

Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Home
In 1920 the Pine Tree Lumber Company closed and the Weyerhaeusers moved their business to Washington State, where the company is still prominent today. Drew Musser stayed in Little Falls and went into banking. His daughter, Laura Jane, took over the green house in the 1950's after returning from New York City where she attended Juilliard. Laura Jane Musser was the last family member to live on the estate and when she passed away in 1989, the property was given to the city and is now operated as Linden Hill Historical Event Center. Laura Jane was a huge fan of the Wizard of Oz and her amazing collection of memorabilia is still in the green house. She and Margaret Hamilton (The Wicked Witch of the West) met in New York City and became life long friends. Margaret visited Laura Jane many times at her home.

Margaret Hamilton (left) and Laura Jane
We moved into the carriage house when I was three years old. I have wonderful memories of Laura Jane and our time on the estate. It's still one of my favorite places on Earth. 

Every year, I host an author retreat in the white mansion. We spend four days writing, brainstorming, relaxing, and dreaming along the banks of the Mississippi River. I also lead a walking tour through my historic downtown for those who might enjoy a little more history.

I hope you enjoyed visiting Linden Hill with me today! Last year, I wrote a story for the Of Rags to Riches Romance Collection set at this estate. It's called A Tale of Two Hearts and it's set at Linden Hill (which I call Basswood Hill) in 1898.

Of Rags and Riches is available here.
What about you? Where did you spend your childhood? Do you ever go back and visit?

Gabrielle Meyer lives in central Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River with her husband and four children. As an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society, she fell in love with the rich history of her state and enjoys writing fictional stories inspired by real people and events.

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  1. What an awesome place to live! How long did you live in the carriage house? I grew up in Tulsa, OK and still live there. My mom still lives in the house we moved to when I was 7. It's not nearly as glamorous a setting as where you lived. Loved the pictures!

  2. What a neat place to grow up! Sabrina is one of my favorite movies--somehow it never clicked in my head that people really did/do live like that.
    As a child I lived in California and Oregon. In the city in CA and the country in OR.

  3. Very interesting. The places are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I LOVE historical homes and the stories that go with them. Do you have any pictures of the carriage house as it used to be before it was turned into a home? Thank you for sharing this. The author's retreat sounds like something I'd love to take part in someday. I grew up in WA state and Moscow, Idaho. We lived in Moscow for 5 yrs while my mother went back to college for her teaching degree, but I never returned after we left when I was in the 7th grade. My home in WA (for the years prior to that move and after) is only 30 min from where I live now, and I go often to visit my mother who still lives in the house where I grew up.