In 1892, grain baron George Van Dusen built a monumental mansion for his family. With 12,000 square feet, 10 fireplaces, a turret and a $45,000 price tag, the home was a symbol of turn-of-the-century prosperity.
After two generations of Van Dusens moved out in 1937, the building (known locally as "the castle") has been used to house almost everything except a family.
The Minneapolis landmark has been a training school for medical secretaries and hairstylists, a B&B/event center and an eyesore. And its pink quartzite profile has fallen and risen with the times.
It was vacant in the late 1930s, then spent 20 years as the College of Commerce. It was home to Hamline University Law School, then the Horst International Education Center. In the late 1980s, the castle fell on hard times and became little more than a flophouse. By the early '90s, it was headed for the wrecking ball.
Two weeks before it was scheduled to be demolished, it was rescued by Wisconsin entrepreneur Bob Poehling, who bought it for $237,000. With a little help from his friends (and Stevens Square Community Organization), Poehling spent more than $1 million to restore all three floors of the Van Dusen mansion and its stone carriage house.
In 1995 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places and by 1999 the remade mansion was at the top of its game. It even earned a cameo in the Coen brothers' film "A Serious Man."
Its most recent owner, Minneapolis money manager Trevor Cook, bought it in 2007 for $2.6 million -- in cash. Cook used the building as his office until he was accused of defrauding investors out of $191 million in a Ponzi scheme. Last month, the government seized the property. And now the castle is on the market once again.
The selling price, which is just under $2 million, includes the two-story stone carriage house, the period furnishings -- and a property tax bill of nearly $63,000. Still, it's the lowest price the castle has been listed for since 1994. If you're in the market for a mansion, it's a bargain.
"It's more affordable now, and the debt service isn't as overwhelming," said Coldwell Banker Burnet agent Jimmy Fogel, who has the listing.
Fogel said the mansion could be used as an event center or office space. The new owner will have a one-of-a kind structure, said Bob Glancy, local house historian. It's one of only a few Richardsonian Romanesque residences in the city and by far the most impressive, he said.
It also has one heckuva history.
For more information, visit www.jimmyfogel.com or call Fogel at 612-889-2000.
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Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619