A piece of Minnesota history could soon be reduced to rubble.
The city of Orono recently green-lit a demolition permit for the historic Southways estate on Lake Minnetonka, the Star Tribune reports. Built in 1918, the palatial property -- once the summer home of John S. Pillsbury Sr., son of flour tycoon Charles A. Pillsbury -- "could [fall] tomorrow; it’s unfortunate, no question about it," Orono Mayor Denny Walsh tells the Strib.
Businessman Jim Jundt purchased Southways for $5 million in 1992, according to county records. Since 2008, he has listed it for $52 million, $24 million, and, as of March, $7.9 million. That latest price point reflected a subdivision of the 13-acre lot, Coldwell Banker Burnet agent Meredith Howell told City Pages in February.
"As hard as we have tried, we could not find somebody. It’s really a heartache for everybody," Howell said of the home at 1400 Bracketts Point Rd., which now sits on 3.4 acres. "It’s really a gift to Minnesota."
Now, without National Register of Historic Places protection, that gift will likely be swapped for yet another beige, interchangeable McMansion. The property listing switched to "sold" earlier this month. Final advertised asking price: $7.4 million. Howell didn't immediately return our call for additional details.
Whatever structure emerges, it won't boast the masterful touches that famed New Jersey architect Harrie T. Lindeberg put into Southways. But today's ultra-wealthy elites are more interested in gizmos than irreplaceable craftsmanship, architectural historian Larry Millett tells the Strib.
"It’s hard to find anybody who wants that grand old-time lifestyle," explained the author of Minnesota’s Own: Preserving Our Grand Homes. "The people with money want the tech palace."
Apparently none of them wanted a seven-bedroom, 13-bathroom, 32,461-square-foot mansion with nine fireplaces, a pool, a spa, a wine cellar, and 415 feet of lakeshore. Jundt, a hedge fund manager who co-owned the Vikings in the '90s, extensively rehabbed the space, but clearly honored its heritage.
"A house can be elegant without being ostentatious," John Pillsbury's wife, Eleanor, reportedly said of Southways, where she lived in until her death in 1991 at age 104.
Click here for a photo tour of Eleanor's elegant home.