You know, “Minnesota nice” is not a myth—Minnesotans really are courteous and friendly, consistently ranked as among the most agreeable Americans. True, there’s always been a bit of friendly rivalry between Minneapolis and St. Paul, the state’s two major cities: both were founded about the same time in the mid-19th century, their downtowns situated on opposing bluffs of the Mississippi.
Minneapolis became the financial and commercial hub, while St. Paul, the state capital, evolved into the region’s political center. Rivalry peaked in the 1890s (when the cities kidnapped each others’ census takers), but relations today in the complementary cities are quite civilized.
To understand how the Arts & Crafts movement developed in Minneapolis, plan to spend time at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The 1915 neoclassical building was designed by McKim, Mead & White with a recent wing by Michael Graves (artsmia.org). Centered on the Ulrich Architecture and Design Gallery, the MIA has one of the top collections of Prairie School objects in the United States, from the reinstalled hallway of the Francis Little House by Frank Lloyd Wright to a stained-glass skylight by Purcell and Elmslie. See the Prindle living room, full of wonderful Arts & Crafts furnishings by designer John Bradstreet.
Do try to visit the Purcell–Cutts House when you can take a tour—the second weekend of each month. The 1913 Prairie landmark by Purcell and Elmslie is located in the heart of Minneapolis.
The Twin Cities are rich in architecture, museums, and cultural events. Set on the river’s edge, the Mill City Museum (millcitymuseum.org) is housed in what was once the world’s largest flour mill; I thoroughly enjoyed its perspective on the city’s history.
The Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum houses the University of Minnesota’s massive art collection (weisman.umn.edu). Some visitors then go snap their photo by the statue of Mary Tyler Moore on 7th Street and Nicollet Mall.
A restaurant Stickley would have enjoyed is The Craftsman at 4300 Lake St. (craftsmanrestaurant.com): local produce in an Arts & Crafts setting. Tile-maker Ernest Batchelder taught at the Handicrafts Guild Building at 89 Tenth St. South, where there’s now an excellent restaurant.
A short drive across the Mississippi brings you to St. Paul and its magnificent State Capitol and mall just north of downtown, designed by Cass Gilbert in 1905, in keeping with the neoclassical White City at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair. St. Paul has always been the more preservation-minded of the two cities and has many well-maintained period neighborhoods. Begin at the top with the 1891 Gilded Age James J. Hill House at 240 Summit Ave (mnhs.org/hillhouse). Across the street the granite domes of the Beaux Arts Cathedral overlook the city, its interior walls of travertine marble highlighted with ornate mosaic murals and stained-glass windows (cathedralsaintpaul.org). Then take a leisurely drive west on Summit, a broad boulevard lined with gracious homes in styles from Queen Anne to Prairie School.
TWIN CITIES: HOTELS
• Of the many good hotels and inns, I can’t resist Foshay Tower when I visit. It’s a 1929 Art Deco skyscraper, now the Hotel W Minneapolis (whotel.com/Minneapolis).
• In St. Paul, a historic place to stay is the elegant 1910 St. Paul Hotel (saintpaulhotel.com).
TWIN CITIES: MORE
• The metallic-blue Guthrie Theater, built in 1963 on the banks of the river, offers interesting plays (guthrietheater.org).
• The Fitzgerald Theater is home to Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” (fitzgeraldtheater.publicradio.org).
• The 1917 Renaissance Revival Central Library has beautifully painted ceilings.
• The 1902 Richardsonian Revival Landmark Center, originally the Post Office and Court House, now houses historic galleries and museums (landmarkcenter.org).
• The 21-story, 1932 Ramsey County Courthouse and City Hall is an Art Deco landmark (co.ramsey.mn.us/cm/manager/CourthouseTours.htm)
TWIN CITIES: DAY TRIPS
• Glensheen Mansion is a 1908 Jacobean Manor on the shores of Lake Superior, with original furnishings intact (d.umn.edu/glen).
• Red Wing Pottery (redwingpottery.com) and Red Wing work boots come from Red Wing, Minn. (redwing.org).