Winton Guest House at Gainey Conference Center, Owatona. Photo by Mike Ekern, provided by University of St. Thomas.
When the Winton Guest house was moved from Orono to Owatonna in 2008, the sculptural building was cut into eight pieces, the largest of which weighed 80 tons. Then the sections were hoisted onto trucks and slowly moved to the Daniel C. Gainey Conference Center, a pastoral southern Minnesota site owned by the University of St. Thomas. There it was reassembled and used as a meeting site.
At the rededication of the building in 2011, the designer, internationally acclaimed Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry, praised the movers for having done "an incredible job" that was "93.6 percent right."
Now the 2,300 square foot house has to be moved once again. The University of St. Thomas sold the conference center in August to Meridian Behavioral Health which plans to use the 180 acre site as a residential treatment center for "people with addictive diseases and behavoral disorders."
The Winton Guest house was excluded from the 2014 sale with the proviso that St. Thomas must move it by the end of August 2016. Where it will go has not been decided. Options include moving it to the University's St. Paul campus or selling it to a deep-pocketed architecture buff willing move it somewhere else.
Gehry designed the unusual building in 1987 for Twin Cities arts patrons Mike and Penny Winton. Its distinctive shape -- including a pyramid-shaped living room sheathed in black-painted metal, a garage/kitchenette covered in plywood, a brick fireplace room, a limestone-clad bedroom -- won immediate acclaim and an honor award from the American Institute of Architects.
When the Wintons sold their 11 acre property overlooking Lake Minnetonka in 2002, buyer Kurt Woodhouse subdivided and sold off the site which included a main house designed by Philip Johnson. He donated the guest house to St. Thomas, stipulating that it be removed. The move took two years and reassembling the pieces another year.
Architect Frank Gehry with arts patron Penny Winton at rededication of the Guest House, August 31, 2011, in Owatonna. Photo provided by University of St. Thomas, Thomas Whisenand, photographer.