The Flanagan Memo: Renowned homes, old thoughts highlight a new year

  • Article by: BARBARA FLANAGAN
  • Star Tribune
  • January 6, 2008 - 10:36 PM

The Flanagan Memo - RE: Some old, very old, resolutions to renew; thoughts for Minneapolis' future, and happy new year.

Primo real estate

The former John S. Pillsbury Sr. house on the tip of Bracketts Point in Orono on Lake Minnetonka is for sale, only the second time the expansive lakefront house has been on the market since 1918. Is anybody worried about who might buy it -- namely, some big developer who will tear down the estate the Pillsbury family called Southways and build other housing there?

James Jundt, a former hedge fund manager, and his wife, Joann, have put it up for sale for $53.5 million. They bought it when Pillsbury's widow, Eleanor Pillsbury, whose friends called her Juty, died in 1991. They have staged any number of events there, including a Republican fundraiser for congressional candidate Michelle Bachmann that lured President Bush in 2006. The Jundts say they are moving to Arizona.

The Pillsburys also entertained in style there for many charities and at least once for the present King Harald of Norway when was still the crown prince.

The reason I know is that I was there, and I must say it was a glorious evening. The prince arrived by boat from across the lake, accompanied by an aide and a couple members of the press. I was one of them.

The dining room housed a long table, seating perhaps 25 or 30 guests. That is what Mrs. Pillsbury used. It was an excellent dinner, although I can't remember one bite as I was totally enthralled. The prince was pleasant, but somewhat prim. He talked to me about historic sites in the area and asked specifically about the location of Indian burial mounds. I didn't know about the lake, but I told him, somewhat foolishly, I suppose, that I had visited burial mounds on the St. Croix River. He nodded, and that was our conversation.

For anybody interested in the house, it has 32,000 square feet, which is roomy; offers 1,700 feet of Lake Minnetonka shoreline, and has two swimming pools, one in and one out. There is room to play touch football on the 13 acres of grounds, but I don't know if anybody did. Jundt was once a co-owner of the Minnesota Vikings, selling his share to Red McCombs in 1998, but I never asked whether he played the game.

George Pillsbury, the youngest child of the Pillsburys, has lots of memories of the house. I think the former state senator should write a book about it.

Who knows? Somebody may want to live in it. Let's hope.

Incidentally, the Mary Tyler Moore house on Kenwood Parkway has been sold, and I believe people from out of town bought it. They got a gem. The house, a historic 1892 number that was used as background on the "Mary Tyler Moore" TV show, was completely refurbished, but all of its superb woodwork was saved. The 9,800-square-foot house was listed earlier this year for $3.6 million. I had a brief tour before it was sold, and it truly shines.

Resolved again

Call them "old" or just "well-used," but there are some little things about living here that some of us often forget.

For example:

• Driving with our headlights on all of the time. It is a safety-first idea; plus, our Legislature actually made it mandatory during rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog or twilight. It is so simple. Just flick on the lights, and we are fine.

• Our turn signals are equally important, but are too often ignored by too many drivers. Why, I wonder, when we can talk on a telephone in the car while going about 45 miles an hour or more, is it so difficult to turn on those blinking signals? Those who don't include not just teens and old-timers, but dozens of people in between. Come on, get with it and use your turn lights when you turn.

Now, as to the telephone, too many people continue to talk on their phones while driving, and that is dangerous. Some states have already banned hand-held phones from automobiles, so why don't we? Yes, the communications industry has superb lobbyists, I am sure, but must our lawmakers be so naive, or should I say stupid? Pass the legislation this year, please.

Motorists are not the only ones at fault. Pedestrians also are guilty. Of what, you may ask? Aren't we always looking out for speedy drivers? Yes, but not at the corners when the semaphore reads "Don't Walk."

The "Don't Walk" sign signifies the opportunity for cars to make turns. It means pedestrians must stop walking and stick to the curb until the light turns green. But do they? Not often enough, certainly.

Think about it the next time you see a "Don't Walk" sign, and Don't Walk.

Hopes and dreams

For 2008, I am rooting for:

• A stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, paid for mostly by owner Zygi Wilf -- I know, I know, but he does have enough money -- that would be almost like our mighty Metrodome, only spiffier. Yes, I like the Dome and I think it has served us well, more or less. And when the new stadium is built, name it after the late Hubert H. Humphrey, just like the current Dome, only call it the Humphrey Two.

• Some way to lure good retail stores back to downtown Minneapolis. The Nicollet Mall is a good place to shop, or at least it used to be. Bring it back somehow.

• Continue the movement toward light rail, including streetcars. We need them.

• Use our incredible arts community to spruce up our towns. Consider how our city grandfathers and great-grandfathers commissioned fountains with statuary, sculptures of famous people such as Thomas Lowry (builder of the Minneapolis streetcar system) and Ole Bull, the legendary Norwegian violinist. We can do that. Let's!

Talking turkey

Come April, you will find me eating turkey dinners at all sorts of places that readers alerted me to when I moaned about it. So look alert, Keys Café in the Foshay Tower, the 50's Grill in Brooklyn Center and, of all places, the Little Wagon at 420 S. 4th St. in Minneapolis, the newspaper hangout for years. See you there.

P.S. I picked April because it should be warm. If it isn't, I'll try May.

Barbara Flanagan, longtime columnist for the Star Tribune, writes on the first Monday of each month. Her interests are the metropolitan area -- what's good and what's bad -- and the fascinating people who live here. She can be contacted at

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