Historical Museum - The Weyerhaeuser Mansion
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Linden Hill is one of the most elegant retreat destinations in Minnesota. It is situated on nine well-groomed acres overlooking the Mississippi River and is walking distance from historic downtown Little Falls, Minn.
The Weyerhaeuser mansion, a grand home built overlooking the Mississippi River in Little Falls was built shortly before Charles Weyerhaeuser married Frances Maud Moon in Duluth, Minn., on Dec. 14, 1898. Drew Musser built a luxurious home next door. The Weyerhaeusers occupied their home at Linden Hill from 1899 to 1920. In 1920, when the Pine Tree Lumber Company closed, they left Little Falls to pursue other lumber business interests in St. Paul. Today, the mansion houses the Linden Hill Historic Museum, where we tell the stories of the Weyerhaeuser and Musser families who built and lived their lives in these houses, as well as the story of the Pine Tree Lumber Co., and what life was like in the early 1900's.
- The History of Linden Hill
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The History of Linden Hill
Built in 1898 the neighboring homes of Charles A. Weyerhaeuser and Richard "Drew" Musser are a physical reminder of the "Lumber Era" in Minnesota.
The nine-acre estate, including both homes, was used by the Musser family until 20 years ago, and is now an event center run by the non-profit Friends of Linden Hill. The group decorates the homes each Christmas season for 10 days and conducts self-guided tours. We also host weddings, receptions, tea retreats and other special occasions throughout the year. Visitors can even stay overnight in the bedrooms in the beautiful Musser mansion. Both houses were designed by architect Clarence Johnston, who, a few years later, also designed the Congdon Mansion (Glensheen) in Duluth, Minn.
The Musser family began calling the estate "Linden Hill" in the 1920s, because of the many linden, or basswood, trees on the property. In those days wealthy Americans liked to name their estates, as they did in England; the Congdons in Duluth called their place "Glensheen."
One of the Linden Hill homes - the white Musser Mansion - had been virtually closed off after Drew Musser's death in 1958. When it was reopened decades later, his toothbrush and razor were still in place in the bathroom as if still waiting for Mr. Musser's return.
Oh, what a world! What a world!
Most of the furniture and furnishings remain intact and undamaged, making it a living example of life for the upper class in the area during the early 20th century. The Weyerhaeuser house also has an extensive collection of old dolls and "Wizard of Oz" memorabilia. This mansion is a "must see" if you are a fan of the 1939 classic movie. Margaret Hamilton (a.k.a. the "Wicked Witch of the West") was dear friends with Laura Jane Musser and visited Linden Hill many times during her life.
Special spot on the Mississippi River
Long before the lumbermen built on the riverbank site, it had been a favored spot for American Indian tribes such as the Ojibwa, said Marilyn Brown, a Linden Hill volunteer who is well-versed in its history. "They revered any place on the river near a falls, and this is just a hop, skip and jump from the falls," Brown said. A big rock, still visible, was noted in the journals of explorer Joseph N. Nicollet, who traveled up the Mississippi River in the mid-1830s to its source at Lake Itasca. So the young Weyerhaeuser and Musser couldn't have found a better location for their side-by-side homes.
They managed the Pine Tree Lumber Co., which had been founded by their lumber magnate fathers. Although the two were bachelors when they built the homes, Weyerhaeuser married later the same year and moved his bride into the green mansion.
Musser lived next door alone until 1903, when he, too, married and started a family. Weyerhaeuser was the more active of the two friends, preferring to be out in the woods with the men, Brown said. Musser was more of a pencil pusher, the inside guy on the team. By 1920, the trees on their thousands of acres of nearby land were all cut. Weyerhaeuser left town with his family, purchasing a mansion on St. Paul's Summit Avenue and working on other lumber businesses.
Weyerhaeuser mansion turned over for a nickel?
As the story goes, Weyerhaeuser turned over his share in the estate for a nickel to Musser, who stayed in Little Falls and went into the banking business. For the first few years, he let business associates live in the Weyerhaeuser home, but in the mid-1950s, Musser's daughter Laura Jane moved out of her family's home and into the Weyerhaeuser house next door.
Laura Jane, who had closed up the Musser house after her father's death, was a community cultural activist. She gave music and dance lessons to children, sometimes taking them to concerts in the Twin Cities. She brought famous musicians like pianist Van Cliburn and contralto Marian Anderson to Little Falls. Although Laura Jane "updated" her house in the 1950s, the Friends of Linden Hill are working to restore the Weyerhaeuser home to its original look, but are keeping Laura Jane's story alive. The Weyerhaeuser home currently houses the permanent historical collections of Linden Hill and serves as its museum.
Before she passed away in 1989, Laura Jane Musser made it clear she wanted the Linden Hill estate to be used for public purposes. Her trust eventually donated it to the city of Little Falls.
Linden Hill Lives On & Thrives
Owned by the city of Little Falls, Linden Hill, now officially called the "Linden Hill Historical Event Center," is managed by a group of dedicated volunteers called the Friends of Linden Hill. The Musser and Weyerhaeuser mansions are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Mussers and Weyerhaeusers embraced the spirit of philanthropy. Their generous contributions in the areas of art, music, literature and cultural enlightenment continue to impact people's lives to this day. The Linden Hill compound, just as it was in years past, is still being used for educational and cultural purposes - thus preserving a rich, long-standing, historical tradition.
Please stop in for a tour to hear many more amazing stories of the Mussers and Weyerhaeusers and their beautiful homes. With our "Living Museum" tours, you will feel like you have become one with history. You may just find yourself wishing you never had to leave. You wouldn't be the first!
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