Minnesota's Hospitality Journal
“The Semple Mansion and Grand Palladian
by Amanda Fretheim
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
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.
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.