Kathryn Stemwedel
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  Kathryn Stemwedel
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Meetings: Minnesota's Hospitality Journal
“The Semple Mansion and Grand Palladian Ballroom”
by Amanda Fretheim
Fall, 2006

Set amid the Minneapolis bustle, this fully restored historic manor welcomes to its graceful spaces the lords and ladies of today.

During the 1880s, wealthy and prosperous residents of Minneapolis moved away from the busy downtown districts to the Loring Park, Stevens, Groveland and Franklin avenue neighborhoods. By the late 1800s and early 1900s, large estates and mansions graced these streets, the homes of bank executives and big-business owners. With architecture reminiscent of 16th-century France and Italy, these homes were built during the Second Renaissance Revival (the first revival took place from 1840 to 1885). On a much grander scale than homes built during the first revival, the estates in Minneapolis’ new neighborhoods were constructed to exalt dignity and wealth.

Because space was needed for highways and other 20th-century developments, very few of these structures remain today. However, one estate still looms over Franklin Avenue—out of place among the houses, churches, clinics and convenience stores that now make up the area—the Frank B. and Anne C. Semple House.

Born in Ohio in 1851, Frank Semple was a traveling salesman for a Cincinnati-based manufacturing company. He met Anne on his travels; the couple married in 1883 and moved to Minneapolis where Semple became a successful hardware merchant. Semple hired architect Franklin Long and his son, Louis, to construct his home on the corner of Franklin and LaSalle—one of the busiest avenues in the city during the era. A prestigious architect of the place and time, Long’s firm previously designed Minneapolis Central High School in 1878, the Masonic Temple Building (now the Hennepin Center for the Arts) and Minneapolis City Hall and Hennepin County Courthouse in 1888, and the first Minneapolis Public Library in 1889.

The Longs began construction on the Semple House in 1899, under Mr. Semple’s instruction to outshine the neighbors. Completed in 1901, the Semple House was one of the most extravagant houses in the area with a different façade facing Franklin and LaSalle, elaborate window treatments and a separate carriage house built from the same stone and brick as the main house.

Fresco Flair
One of Minnesota’s largest historic mansions, the city’s last original ballroom (the third floor Grand Palladian) and a member of the National Register of Historic Places since 1998, the Semple Mansion is a timeless venue for any event, a slice of history set on a small lot within the big city. At its entrance, five stone steps lead up to a large porch, surrounded by large, stately columns. The entryway features three Palladian windows—arched windows made famous by 16th-century Italian architect Andrea Palladio—a prominent sign of wealth during the Semples’ time.

The front door swings open into the Grand Foyer, a large room with hardwood floors, original mahogany woodwork and a large, three-tiered Swarovski Crystal chandelier encompassing 36 candle-shaped crystals. Used for wedding ceremonies, corporate events and cocktail parties, the Grand Foyer’s 2,500 square feet also boasts a working marble fireplace, a Steinway piano and the original fresco paintings on the walls and ceilings. Local artist Kathryn Stemwedel was hired to restore the fresco artwork throughout the house.

Adjacent to the foyer is the conference room/event suite. Formerly the Semples’ dining room, the conference room can be rented by the hour for meetings of 12 people or fewer. The intimate space is decked with a large wood table, high-back chairs, tall ceilings and another marble fireplace, plus large windows that look out onto Franklin Avenue. Located at the center of the foyer, a 7-foot-wide grand staircase leads up to the second and third levels and down to the basement. A Haskell’s-owned wine cellar rests in the basement and is available for wine tasting events, while the newly remodeled billiard room holds a large pool table and lounge area.

The grand staircase, complete with mahogany banisters and spindles, leads up to two different landings with chandeliers and Palladian windows. At the third floor landing (the second floor is reserved for corporate offices), two doors, separated by a mammoth stain glass window, open into the Grand Palladian Ballroom. Measuring in at more than 3,000 square feet, the ballroom can hold up to 250 people for a seated meal. Several white columns topped with gold-leaf accents are spaced throughout the rectangle-shaped room, ending at the curved ceiling, which is a piece of artwork in itself with Renaissance-inspired embellishments. Gold-colored upholstered banquettes, built into the wall on a raised platform, line the outside of the room, providing additional, comfortable seating. In the same fashion as the Grand Foyer, a large crystal chandelier hangs from the center of the ceiling. The ballroom has a small stage for musicians or a podium, a terrace for those seeking downtown views, and an adjacent stainless steel kitchen for use by any licensed caterer.

With three different spaces available, the Semple Mansion may just be the new historic hot spot in town for meetings and events. Available for use any time of the week, the mansion could provide the backdrop for a small breakfast meeting, a program over the lunch hour or an evening gala. Plus, when the Grand Palladian is rented, use of the entire property is included. Start with registration and mingling downstairs (pool sharks can even head to the basement for a round) and then travel upstairs for the main event.


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