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Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Another of my favorite things to do in Minneapolis during the Holidays is to visit the American Swedish Institute, located in the former Turnblad home.  This beautiful Chateau styled mansion is a landmark in the city and at Christmas it becomes even more spectacular.

Swan J. Turnblad

The home was built by Swan J. Turnblad, an American newspaper publisher.  Turnblad was born in 1860 in Sweden to a farming family, who, after several years of bad harvests, decided to immigrate to America when he was eight years old. They settled in an area of Minnesota where there was already a sizable Swedish community.

The two-story fireplace and grand staircase in the entrance hall

About ten years later Turnblad moved to Minneapolis and began working as a typesetter for several Swedish-language newspapers.  It was in Minneapolis that he met his wife Christina Nilsson, and the couple married in 1883.

Eventually, Turnblad would come to work for Svenska Amerikanska Posten and after ten years became the sole owner of the newspaper.  He was always interested in the latest technology and was the first publisher of a Swedish language newspaper to use a Linotype machine.  Under Turnblad's management circulation increased steadily, and the success of Svenska Amerikanska Posten made Turnblad a wealthy man. His success in publishing together with his other investments eventually made him a millionaire.

In 1903 he decided that he needed a new home that would reflect his wealth and status, and so he commissioned the architects Christopher Boehme and Victor Cordella to design their French Chateauesque mansion.

Local youth entertaining us with Nordic dancing

The Turnblads moved into the home in 1908 and lived there until 1929 when, after Christina’s death, it was donated as a museum.  That same year Turnblad created the American Swedish Institute, which was housed in his former residence, as a place to preserve Swedish customs and culture.

A few of the 11 imported Swedish tile stoves (one of the largest collections in the country)

Each year at the Holidays, the rooms of the mansion are spectacularly decorated as they celebrate “A Nordic Christmas”, which represents how Christmas would be celebrated in the various Scandinavian countries.  This “must see” Holiday event is a truly remarkable and unique experience that highlights the grandeur of this wonderful home.

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