About now, it's hard to remember the frigid reputation Minnesota has with the rest of the country. Folks in Arizona would never guess that a Minneapolis mansion on Lake of the Isles was the first residence in the world to install air conditioning -- which turns 110 years old Tuesday.
Turn-of-the-century millionaire Charles Gates was the son of barbed-wire mogul and gambler John "Bet-a-Million" Gates. At 38,000 square feet, his home was as big as the James. J. Hill mansion in St. Paul, and the costliest ever built in Minneapolis at the time. Gates hired Dr. Willis H. Carrier, who invented the air conditioner in 1898 to cool a Brooklyn printing plant, to install it himself. Alas, Gates never felt the thrill of a mechanically chilled breeze on his sweaty brow. He died in Wyoming in 1913, before construction was complete, and the AC wasn't put in until the following year.
The mansion, located at 25th Street and East Lake of the Isles Boulevard, didn't last much longer. Never lived in much, it was razed in 1933 during the Great Depression.
"It was a white elephant," said Minneapolis historian Bob Glancy. "No one wanted to pay to heat something that big, let alone air condition it."
To cool a space that large today would cost at least $1,500 a month, and that's using equipment at least 60 percent more efficient than it was in Gates' day, according to CenterPoint Energy.