SELLER: Garrison Keillor
LOCATION: Portland Avenue, St. Paul, MN
SIZE: 5,168 square feet, 7 bedrooms, 3 full and 2 half bathrooms
DESCRIPTION: Architectural masterpiece by Emmanuel Masqueray (designed St. Paul Cathedral). A perfect example of French elegance & sophistication, grand foyer w/ exquisite staircase, lofty 14 ft. ceilings, exceptional windows, cooks kitchen, 3 floors of wonderful living space.
UPDATE (LATER SAME DAY): Interior photos finally appeared with the listing, so we’ve included them for all the children to cheer on or chew up. We stand by our original assessment of the interiors which is that overall we like this house quite a bit, even if we could never live in Minneapolis because of the weather (Your Mama hates the cold). We are, however, having some trouble with that colorful family room on the second floor which is looking a hot mess. And we like colorful rooms usually.
YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Thanks to the The St. Paul Snowman, Your Mama is pleased to bring the children our first ever discussion about a property located in the frozen state of Minnesota. We happen to have visited the Twin Cities on several occasions because there’s a cute and quirky family of five living near lovely Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis that are very near and dear Your Mama’s cold and snarky heart. We love the outdoorsy lifestyle, we love the soo-blime Walker Art Center, natch, and we l.o.v.e. the Minnesota State Fair where every year all the finalists in the Princess Kay of the Milky Way pageant get likenesses of their heads carved from butter. Yes, children, butter.
But lawhd have mercy children, it is too damn dreadfully cold up there in the winter, and it’s been even colder across the Mississippi River on Portland Avenue in St. Paul where radio talk show icon Garrison Keillor has put his big house on the market just weeks after settling an unneighborly, public, and stoopid lawsuit with his next door neighbor over a proposed garage addition.
Now children, we know some of you probably think of Mister Keillor as a soothing grandfatherly voice on Sunday afternoons as he prattles on about Lake Wobegon on his Prairie Home Companion program, but Your Mama finds him to be an outdated auditory annoyance who pines for a fictionalized and idealized time and place in American history that hasn’t existed in 50 years if it ever existed at all. Maybe we just don’t get the irony, which is a very distinct possibility, but we happen to like the modern world, thank you very much.
Anyhoo, property records show that in September of 1998, shortly after Mister Keillor, his third wifey, the violinist Jenny Lind Nilsson, and their young daughter relocated to Minnesota from New York City, the couple forked over $710,000 for their rather grand red brick house on Portland Avenue in the fancy-pants and historic Ramsey Hill neighborhood of St. Paul
Tax information for the property indicates the house measures 5,168 square feet with 7 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms, while listing information for the dignified and solid looking mansion shows (approx.) 5,960 square feet with 7 bedrooms, 2 full, 1 three-quarter and 2 half bathrooms. In case y’all don’t know, a three-quarter bath usually refers to a bath with a sink, terlit and shower (no tub).
Although no interior photos of the Keillor/Nilsson house have been included with the online listing for the property, Your Mama happened across a few images that were included in a 2006 article in the New York Times which shows a grumpy looking Mister Keillor standing in the 29-foot long “grand foyer” with its “exquisite staircase.” Before finding the NY Times article, Your Mama imagined the staircase to be an elaborately carved confection with a giant pineapple perched atop the newel post that would make even the most die-hard modernist misty eyed. The actual staircase, although not exactly what we expected, will definitely do in the jaw dropper department and would make an amazing setting for our pal Falsetta Knockers to make one of her nearly nekkid and notoriously naughty grand entrances.
The main floor, with its soaring 14 foot ceilings, features an inviting, book filled and wonderfully intellectual looking living room with tall and blessedly curtain free windows, a wood burning fireplace, a custom rug, and dee-lishus dentil molding. The pretty but slightly too grandma-ish dining room measures in at a banquet sized 20′ x 22′ which works well for entertaining all the good Luthrans from Lake Wobegon, and in the “cooks kitchen” we are completely unable to move beyond that industrial sized and potentially lethal pot rack looming over the room like a tiger ready to pounce on an unsuspecting dish washer. How do these Keillor/Nilsson people feel safe with all that copper and cast iron hanging up above their damn brains? Your Mama would need to strap on a football helmet just to dart into that room to snatch up a lime for a pitcher of gin and tonics.
Up the elegant and curving stairs to the second floor, five bedrooms, including a master bedroom that stretches an impressive 30′ feet long, share a couple of bathrooms. A commodious 16′ x 30′ family room completes the private family floor and two large rooms on the third floor tuck nicely under the eaves of the slate roof.
The big house sits on a relatively small .2 acre lot with a detached 2 car garage at the rear of the property and an itty bitty back yard that only old people could love because it’s really far too small for a swing set and a sandbox.
Your Mama hasn’t a clue whether Mister Keillor will be moving his little family to another posh residence in St. Paul or if perhaps they’ll all be headed back to New York City where Mister Keillor and Miz Nilsson own and maintain a 2-bedroom residence on the 12th floor of the legendary El Dorado on Central Park West. Interestingly Mister Keillor bought this apartment in 1987 for $800,000, sold it in 1993 for around $1,500,000 and property records show the that in June of 2006 the quirky radio yakker bought the very same 12th floor co-operative apartment for $3,600,000. Apparently he always regretted selling the park view place and the opportunity to wipe away that regret cost the much wealthier that we imagined radio host two million clams.