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The House James J. Hill Built


Janine Rustad


Everyone has read about the house Jack built, but few peoplehave ever visited or heard of the house James J. Hill built.

James J. Hill's life was very interesting and inspiring.He was born in 1883 and at a very early age came to Minnesota and took ajob at a steamboat company. Later he became interested in building a railroad.In 1877, he started the construction of the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitobarailroad. It was built from Crookston to St.Vincent in l878 and joined theCanadian Pacific line, but later became the Great Northern. Hill was notedas an Empire builder in the construction of this railroad.

In 1912, James J. Hill built a house six miles north ofHallock for his son Walter. This house is extremely big. It took a wholesummer to build it and many other farm buildings including two large waterholes, fencing land and erecting two enormous silos, a water tower, an electricalgenerating plant, large stock barns for 200 horses and 400 cattle, foreman'sresidence, river dam, machine shops, boarding house, a number of cottagesand a large grain elevator. The capacity of this elevator is 55,000 bushelsand they were building it larger so it could hold 25,000 more bushels

The house on the farm cost $49,000. Hill launched a buildingprogram costing 750,000 dollars which was the cause of all the buildings.This residence was one of the largest farms in the world at that time.

The Hill house is a contracted home. The outside was builtof brick and steel and the inside walls are of concrete and tile. It wasvery ruggedly built but was set on pilings. The local carpenters who helpedbuild the house and farm buildings were Jack Monroe, Ed Cameron, Jim Davis,and Mr. Lilliquist.

The house is four stories high counting the basement andis a twenty four room mansion. The basement includes many rooms such asa furnace room, storage room, laundry, fruit, coal, clean-up and cisternroom.

They have two cisterns. One holds 10,000 gallons of waterand the other 5,000. The water tower provides all the water they need.

The house has four large bedrooms upstairs and two smallerbedrooms downstairs. There are six fireplaces, two upstairs and four downstairs.The two upstairs have hand painted ceramic tile.

Their porch faces the highway and is next to the masterbedroom. There was a special room which is the butler's pantry. It is locatedbetween the kitchen and dining room. On the floors of the front room, diningroom, family room, and upstairs bath, which is off the master bedroom, thereare some round brass plates about the size of a saucer. On each of themis a button system. When someone stepped on it the bell in the butler'spantry would ring for the butler to come for service.

The house uses the electric power plant for its lightingsystem. They have some very beautiful light fixtures of Tiffany carnivalglass. The living room has fourteen of these in groups of two. In the diningroom there are two way lights. The center part is like a dome light andthe outside part has Tiffany colored glass and is put together with lead.

The house has four sets of French doors. Upstairs thereare glass knobs on all of the doors and there are lots of brass fixturesthroughout the whole house. The house has approximately 73 windows. It alsohas three bathrooms upstairs and a half bath downstairs.

As time went on, Walter moved because the crops were failingand he couldn't afford the upkeep of the house

John Loer moved in then and later it was sold to Mr. Haubrick.After that, the Kiene family moved in. In October of 1931, six light fixturesand a chandelier were stolen. They replaced them with some of the same kindthat were in the Hill house in Minneapolis.

After the Kienes moved, the Maurice Florance family movedin. They made very important improvements in the house. For instance, whenWalter Hill lived there the attic was just setting idle. The Florances turnedit into a recreation room for the children. It had such things as a ping-pongtable, phonograph, games, etc.

The laundry room which was in the basement was partly inuse as extra space for their kitchen appliances. The kitchen upstairs wasvery small because it was built for only one cook to use. The family alwaysate in the dining room.

Another improvement that was made was a swimming pool.It was built in 1936. It is small, but unique for the use of family andfriends. It has two nice showers in the bath house.

After the Florances moved out in 1951, Dan McGrews movedin. He decorated it again after the Florances had.

In 1966, the Byron Hansons moved in. Even though thereare lovely light fixtures, the Hansons must use extension cords becausethere is a shortage of outlets. It is different and hard to put in outletsbecause of the concrete walls. Also, because of these walls, anything thatis hung from a picture molding.

When the Walter Hill family lived there, they used it mainlyas a summer home, so they didn't require much heat. Later occupants putin a coal furnace. Then, the Hansons converted the coal furnace to oil.Now, the house is heated with hot water heat. The water is hauled now forin 1941 the water tower was sold to a steel company.

The swimming pool hasn't been used extensively since 1948.Hansons have used it some but it will hold water for a short period of time.It should be relined before it can be used for the whole summer.

At the present time, Mrs. Hanson has furnished the livingroom in green and gold with accents of white. The floors have beautifulhardwood so she uses an area rug 12' by 16' in the living room.

This house has been and still is a beautiful home builtby an extremely wealthy person. The whole farm was like a village in theearly days. The two silos they had were two of the largest in the worldand the power plant was suitable for a population of 1,500.

Most of these buildings were sold to other people. LeviDiamond lived in one of the houses. Arnold Weise has a barn and Alfred Rustadhas a sheep shed.

Although many of the buildings have been moved, the magnificenthouse still stands to show what a beautiful farm there once had been.




Bracewell, B. Interview: Kennedy, Minnesota, December 10,1971

Christopher, Albert Mrs. Interview: Pembina, North Dakota(papers)

Hanson, Byron Mrs. Interview: Northcote, Minnesota December31, 1971

Kittson County Enterprise 50th Anniversary edition

Johnson, William Mrs. (floor plan of the Hill house)

Mathew, Silas Interview: Humboldt, Minnesota December 28,1971

lliam Mrs. (floor plan of the Hill house)

Mathew, Silas Interview: Humboldt, Minnesota December 28,1971