In the late 1930s, Mike McKinney's grandfather, Ray Lindholm, started a oil wholesale firm in Cloquet and chain of gas stations that became part of the landscape in nearly two dozen northern Minnesota towns. Lindholm was also a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright and hired the architect to design his house, which was built in 1952.
Two years later, Wright designed a gas station for Lindholm that still stands on a prominent corner of the small town 20 miles west of Duluth. It's the only gas station of Wright's design that was ever built.
Both the house and the station still belong to the McKinney family, who this week made news by announcing the sale of their businesses, Best Oil and Little Stores, in two transactions.
Mike McKinney, chief of operations for the family business, said in a interview Thursday that the family decided to sell them because no one in the next generation, the fourth since the firms were started, wanted to take them on. Market conditions were also good, he said. The family saw multiple bids for both businesses.
They lease the gas station to another operator and it doesn't run under either of the family's brands. The house, meanwhile, is vacant after one of McKinney's brothers moved out last summer. Called Mantyla, Finnish for "house in the pines," it sits on 15 acres of woodland and is one of 10 Wright-designed homes still standing in Minnesota. The family for many years has kept the home private and images of it are rare, though it is in a Wright anthology by art publisher Taschen.
"If there's any Wright buffs who give us a call, we're happy to show it to them," McKinney said. "We've been maintaining it. It's in decent shape. We don't have a long-term formulation for what to do with it."
Wright fans know both the station and house by the name Lindholm.