The Princess Depot at Minnehaha Falls

Guest post by Richard Kronick:

The Princess Depot is one of the best examples in the Twin Cities of the Eastlake style of architecture, which is named for the English architect and furniture designer, Charles Locke Eastlake.

In his 1872 book, Hints on Household Taste, Eastlake thundered against the florid and highly popular Italianate style:

“The so-called Italian style — now understood to include every variety of Renaissance design which prevailed in Rome, Venice, and Florence, from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century — has its aesthetic merits and its practical advantages.  But they are merits and advantages which are unsuited to the age, to the climate, and to the country [Britain] in which they are reproduced.  It does not require the judgment of an accomplished connoisseur to perceive that mouldings and carved enrichments which look well under the glowing effect of a Venetian sky, must appear tame and spiritless through the leaden atmosphere of  London.”  Hints on Household Taste, pp. 19-20.

Eastlake preferred Gothic Revival for buildings and Arts & Crafts (an outgrowth of the Gothic Revival) for furniture.  He said Gothic automatically projected a sense of dignity and rectitude because it was based on church architecture.  His book is illustrated with his furniture designs, which carpenters in England and America copied and adapted to their own needs in the 1870s and 80s.

Princess Depot at Minnehaha Falls (Richard Kronick)

Princess Depot at Minnehaha Falls (Richard Kronick)

The style is characterized by relatively flat wooden surfaces (as compared with the more voluptuous Italianate style) covered with a combination of incised and built-up geometric patterns in rhythmically repeating borders between panels and on bargeboards and roof ridges.

Closeup of trim on Princess Depot at Minnehaha Falls. (Richard Kronick.)

Closeup of detail on Princess Depot at Minnehaha Falls. (Richard Kronick.)

Often, as in the Princess Depot, the crowning ornament is a complex wooden lattice-work inserted under the overhanging eaves — a tour-de-force by a master carpenter. The other great example of the style in the Twin Cities is the Charles Burwell House in Minnetonka Mills.

Richard Kronick 

Note: Richard Kronick is a writer and architectural historian. He will be leading a walking tour of Red Cedar Lane in southwest Minneapolis on May 30 as a part of Preserve Minneapolis’s summer program.

If you didn’t get into Richard’s tour above, here’s more chances to join his tours. These are sponsored by Independent School District 728 (Elk River):

June 6, 10-noon — Red Cedar Lane & neighborhood
June 13, 2-4 p.m. — St. Paul Cathedral & Summit Ave.
June 20, 10-noon — Interiors of two Purcell & Elmslie houses

Two additional notes:

One of the earliest entries on this blog was essentially a question: Did the Princess Depot burn down in 1891? Recent information found by Karen Cooper, which she presented as a comment on that blog post, suggests that it was the “motor line” depot or waiting room, not the Milwaukee Road depot, that burned down as the Minneapolis Tribune had reported. I think that mystery is solved. The information Richard presents above also suggests that the depot’s architectural style was more consistent with the 1875 time of the original construction rather than with a depot that would have been rebuilt in the 1890s.

Richard’s mention of the Charles Burwell House in Minnetonka Mills reminds me that Burwell was the manager of the Minnetonka Mill in the 1880s, which was owned by Loren Fletcher and Charles Loring, who both played central roles in the development of Minneapolis parks. Even after Fletcher and Loring sold the mill, Burwell continued to work for them. I recall considerable correspondence in Minnesota Historical Society files among Loring, Burwell and William Watts Folwell in later years when proposals were on the table to change Minneapolis’s charter in a way that would have eliminated the park board. It was obvious from those communications that Burwell was acting as Loring’s employee and agent in those discussions. Charles Burwell named his first son Loring Burwell. You see, I can turn almost any topic into a tribute to Charles Loring!

David C. Smith

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2 comments so far

  1. Whitney Clark on

    That is such a distinctive building. A small vestige of the history of that site. I remember visiting the depot in the mid sixties when they offered pony rides there.

    • David C. Smith on

      Whitney, any idea when the pony rides stopped? You also might know the answer to a question I’ve been asked by many people: When was the ski jump in he park taken down? As always, thanks for reading.


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