The Chateauesque homes of France left an impression on Rufus R. Rand, a Minnesota aviator who served in World Wars I and II. Upon returning from the first war, the prominent businessman/politician instructed architecture firm McEnary & Larson to build his palatial new Minnetonka home in that exact style.
Completed 1931, the 25,175-square-foot property boasted 63 rooms, 13 fireplaces, three-foot-thick walls, and, at the time, the largest private swimming pool in North America (it's now a pond). Minnetonka-based food giant Cargill Inc. acquired the "Still Pond" estate in 1944, and quickly ballooned it to 40,000 square feet; it'd serve as the company's headquarters until 1975, and continue on as its so-called Lake Office for top execs until 2016.
As of this month, it's being reduced to rubble.
"We have made the difficult, yet fiscally prudent decision, to proceed with demolition of the Lake Office property," Cargill PR rep April Nelson tells us. "The cost to maintain the empty building and bring it to current health and accessibility standards is simply not feasible nor responsible."
Could the country's largest privately held company come up with the cash to meet ADA and safety codes, possibly to reimagine the space as a library or museum? The cost would "simply not [be] feasible nor responsible," Nelson says. Cargill is working to preserve artifacts within the mansion, she adds, and its footprint will become a "prairie-type" green space on the corporate campus, where the current '70s-era HQ complex sits just down McGinty Road.
Worker sentiment toward the Lake Office has been historically mixed. Business historian Wayne G. Broehl Jr. once wrote that employees viewed the compound as a "secretive, unwelcoming place," a siloed off “Versailles" for around 40 of Cargill's elite leaders. In 2018, however, the company's roughly 5,000 Minnesota workers viewed the Lake Office with "more pride than anything as it is part of our history," spokesman Pete Stoddart told the Star Tribune.
Still Pond housed more than just corporate history. In 1929, Rand, who served as president of his family company Minnegasco, was elected the first-ever mayor of Wayzata and built downtown Minneapolis's 26-story Rand Tower. Rand, whose grandfather Arthur was mayor of Minneapolis from 1878-1882, was also a regent at the University of Minnesota.
"There was no group fighting the demolition [of Still Pond] that I'm aware of," reports Aaron Person, president of the Wayzata Historical Society. Interestingly, Person points out, only one of the 14 communities surrounding Lake Minnetonka — that'd be Excelsior — even has a fully authorized heritage preservation commission.
And, over the past decade, many of the area's masterpiece historic properties have met the wrecking ball. Person points to the W.G. Northup house (Wayzata, demolished 2013); the Dayton-Burnet house (Wayzata, knocked down in '16 by Cargill heir Donald C. MacMillan); Southways (Orono, '18); and, just last year, the Piper-Hawley house (Wayzata) and the Wall house (Woodland), both of which were razed on the same day.
Here are some photos of Still Pond, courtesy of the Wayzata Historical Society: