American Swedish Institute

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by wanderluster on November 9, 2002

Even if you're not Swedish you'll enjoy exploring Minneapolis' only castle.

This 33 room mansion was completed in 1908 for Swedish newspaper publisher, Swan Turnblad, a Swedish immigrant who lived here with his young wife and daughter. He spared no expense creating a beautiful home to help lure his wife away from their homeland.

He hired 200 craftsmen to carve intricate designs into the oak, mahogany and walnut interiors, sculpt plaster ceilings, and create a magnificent two-story grand entrance hall. Mythical beasts, cherubs and barbarians are carved into the woodwork throughout the mansion. Turnblad's original furnishings, photographs and personal items decorate the rooms along with the eleven porcelain tiled stoves, Kakelugnar, that he had shipped from Sweden. These combination fireplace/stoves, distinctly different from one another, represent the largest Kakelugn collection in the world. Varying in color, ornamentation, design and shape–some are embellished with mirrors and paintings.

I enjoyed wandering around the mansion admiring the craftsmanship and unique Kakelugns, imagining what life was like for this young wife and daughter living in a country so far removed from familiar surroundings. Were they adventurous types that embraced the change? Or lonely misfits in a foreign city?

The mansion has two permanent exhibits revolving around Swedish life in the Twin Cities, and an extensive showcase collection of Swedish glass. You can listen to recordings and watch video segments that illustrate what life was like for immigrants as they adjusted to a new land, and learn why they left Sweden and chose to settle in Minnesota. Written stories provide personal, often humorous, accounts of early Minneapolis.

Current traveling exhibits focus on the origin, function and design principles of the Kakelugnar stoves, and the life and times of Saturday Evening Post illustrator Eugene Iverd.

Two annual holiday exhibits about St. Lucia and Scandinavian Christmas Decorating are displayed November 22 to January 12. Learn the legends about St. Lucia, and view holiday tables and trees distinctly decorated with dishes, linens and ornaments from Finland, Norway, Sweden, & Iceland.

Curious about your Scandinavian roots? A research library contains reference materials on Swedish immigration, and the history, life and culture of Sweden.

If you live in Minneapolis, take advantage of the great programs offered by the American Swedish Institute. Svenska skolan is a Saturday morning Swedish immersion program for children age 4 and up, which includes singing, crafts, stories, games, refreshments, and short movie, all in Swedish of course! Adults can take 8 week courses in lace making, woodcarving, dala painting, rosemaling, dance, or language classes.

Be sure to visit the gift shop! It's a hoot just to listen to the Scandinavian staff speak ("Ooooh, noooo, I don't mind the snoooooow.") Books galore on cooking, crafts, photography, art, biography (Greta Garbo, Charles Lindbergh), interior design, immigration, travel, Pippi Longstocking and other excellent children's books; plus imported games, food, crystal, toys, videos, trolls, ornaments... Call to request their catalog if you can't visit 612-871-4907. Ya gotta try the ligonberry jam!

American Swedish Institute
2600 Park Avenue
Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55407
(612) 871-4907

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