The Top 10 Castles of Minnesota

IMG_0884This was a fun topic to research.  I’ve always known there were castles in Minnesota and have even photo’d and featured a few on before.  But as I dug deeper, many questions arose:  What exactly makes a “Castle?”  Surely a brick structure featuring turrets with parapets on top.  Maybe even a drawbridge or a moat.  And do “Ice Castles” count? Every winter there are a few ice castles that pop up, especially around the Twin Cities area. So we broke it down for you in this week’s feature, The Top 10 Castles of Minnesota.

NEW10. The Stanford Newel House in St. Paul – An impressive limestone brick building with a Mansard Roof and a big, imposing turret (which was actually added later), the Stanford-Newel House near St. Paul’s Summit Avenue is the only private residence on our list. Newel was a prominent Minnesota lawyer and politician and also served as the US Ambassador to the Netherlands. It was built back in 1864.

IMG_08669. Villa Maria Retreat Center, Frontenac –  Hidden away in southeastern MN is a secluded castle, one whose roots dates back to the late 1880’s when a group of immigrant nuns created a private Catholic academy.  The school was in use until 1961, when the original building was destroyed by fire when lightning struck it. Around 1970, the current structure took shape.   It currently is used as an interfaith retreat center and can be rented out for different events.


8. University of Minnesota Armory, Minneapolis Campus-  Originally an army-training facility on the University campus, the Armory Building was primarily used as the home of the Gophers basketball team.  Currently it is used for the ROTC program along with offices and classrooms.IMG_0958

7. Landmark Center, St Paul-  One of St. Paul’s most iconic buildings, the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul almost met the wrecking ball in the 1970’s when it became too expensive to maintain.  Dating back to 1902, its original purpose was a post office, a courthouse, and custom house for the capital city.  Now it houses several art galleries, a performing arts school, and can be rented for events.

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Photo courtesy

6. Spicer Castle, Green Lake- A B&B on the shores of Green Lake north of Willmar, MN, the Spicer Castle is available to stay at year-round, and even offers an interactive murder-mystery dinner program.  It was built in 1895 by the town’s founder, John Spicer, as a seasonal lake cottage. Originally known as the Medayto Cottage, it later became referred to as the Spicer Castle and still is to this day.

5. Minnesota Musuem of Mining, Chisholm-  Constructed in 1933 under the Works Progress Administration, the Minnesota Museum of Mining in Chisholm also features a stone wall built under the Army Corps of Engineers at the perimeter.  The Castle houses the visitor’s center of the museum as well as a beautiful stone fireplace built under the same guise.

DSC_01614. Historic Central School, Duluth –  The incredible old Central High School in Duluth dates back to 1886 and stands up on a hill near downtown Duluth. It served as the main High School until the 1970s and now houses administration offices mostly.  It was constructed with locally quarried sandstone and designed in the ever-beautiful Richardsonian Romanesque fashion.  Its clocktower bell chimes were patterned after London’s famous Big Ben clock.

2013-11-16 08.20.39-13. Minnesota Correctional Facility,  St. Cloud – One of our favorite buildings in Stearns County, the Minnesota Correctional Facility was built back in the late 1880’s in the Richardsonian Romanesque-style, designed by architect J. Walter Stevens.  The actual construction was done by inmates who quarried local granite. Photography of the prison site is of course strictly off-limits, which is indeed a shame.

2013-08-25 10.23.082.  Kirkbride, Fergus Falls –  We’ve also covered the Kirkbride Hospital, or Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center, on before, the remarkable former mental institute tucked away in the unassuming town of Fergus Falls.  The building is mostly abandoned and tours can be arranged, and a local grassroots-effort is constantly trying to preserve the beautiful structure.

2013-11-16 10.58.011. Swedish American Institute,  Minneapolis, MN. Probably the best example of a real castle in Minnesota is the Swedish American Institute in Minneapolis.  Built in 1910 by immigrant-turned-newspaper-mogul Swan Turnblad, the chateau-style mansion was later donated to the Swedish American Society and is now a museum.

There were a lot to choose from when you include castle-like private mansions and all of the college/university buildings in Minnesota. Did we miss any that you would have like to see on the list?

Honorable Mentions:

IMG_25181. Tower Hall at St Scholastica, Duluth; 
2. Holland Hall at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN;


3. Minneapolis City Hall/Hennepin County Courthouse;
4. Charles S. Pillsbury Mansion, Minneapolis

IMG_18095.  Ice Castles (Seasonal)

2 thoughts on “The Top 10 Castles of Minnesota

  1. Have you every visited Shattuck/St. Mary’s School in Faribault, MN? It is straight out of another world. When you drive under the archway you feel like you are in England or out east. It is a wonderful school. Previously a military academy.

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