A History of Art and ArchitectureTweed House 'one of the most prominent and interesting houses in the city'
By: Jane Brissett, Living North
If they could talk, the sturdy walls of Tweed House would probably discuss the paintings that have hung on them and the people who came to see the artwork.The 96-year-old mansion in eastern Duluth has at various times been the home of art collectors, the original Tweed Gallery and University
of Minnesota Duluth provosts.
Designed by Chicago architect Frederick W. Perkins, the brick and stone Neo-Renaissance home was built in 1914 for Capt. Marcus L. Fay and soon afterward was sold to George P. Tweed, namesake of the Tweed Museum of Art at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
The story goes that while living there, George Tweed, a mining, real estate and banking magnate, collected art while his wife, Alice Tweed, saw to hanging and lighting the paintings on the home’s first floor. She conducted tours there as well.
George Tweed died in 1946. The couple had amassed a collection of 300 paintings by the time Alice Tweed donated the house to UMD in 1950. At that time, the home became the Tweed Gallery.
Tweed House is an important historical residence, says Dennis Lamkin of the Duluth Preservation Alliance. Although it is not listed, “it would actually qualify for recognition on the National Register of Historic Places,” he says.
It has been many years since UMD owned the property and several private parties have held the title since then, including Christina Van Patten, who has owned the home for nine years. It is now for sale with an asking price of $950,000. Recently, portions of the house were renovated to return the interior to its original appearance.
The 16-room Tweed House sits on about an acre of land at 2531 E. 7th St.
in Duluth, surrounded by tall pine trees. With five bedrooms, a library, an
office, a sunroom, five bathrooms, two kitchens and a number of other rooms, the two-and-a-half-story, 6,700-squarefoot home. “It’s a house that was built with entertaining in mind,” Lamkin says.
Living North was invited to tour the house, which Van Patten says hasn’t
been open to the public for years. “It’s been our family home,” she
Tweed House is one of at least four Duluth homes that Perkins designed,
according to the book, “Duluth’s Legacy: Architecture.” He studied at
the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, the center of the Classical Revival architectural movement, around the turn of the 20th century.
“Duluth’s Legacy” classifies Tweed House as a neo-Renaissance building.
“This home … is [Perkins’] best,” it says. It “possesses all of the grace and none of the crass litter that so frequently choked up the copies done by architects of the neo-Renaissance.”
Tweed House was solidly built, using the best materials. The outside walls are brick and stone with an air gap between the interior and exterior walls that insulates the house, Van Patten says. Flashing and gutters are made of copper. The original roof was replaced last year with handmade tiles similar to the original, she says.
Inside the oak-paneled foyer it’s clear that this is a home of elegance and luxury. Immediately to the left and right of the entrance door are his and hers bathrooms. The entry hall has a black and white Italian marble floor and a grand dark polished wood staircase. Straight ahead is a study with a fireplace and Wedgwood sconce lamps.
The highlights of the oversized main-floor living room are the white marble fireplace adorned with carved cherubs and a glazed terra cotta tile floor. Beyond the living room is a paneled library.
Those rooms once served as the art gallery. The family lived on the second and attic floors. George Tweed used to give out tickets that permitted holders to visit the art collection in his home one day a week, according to Lamkin. When the Tweeds hosted large dinner parties, they would put folding tables in the gallery and guests would eat among the paintings, he says. A nearby catering kitchen on the ground floor allowed servants easy access to party-goers.
Upstairs, the space is more intimate. A smaller, less-formal family living room with hardwood floors, wainscoting and yet another marble fireplace sits directly above the downstairs gallery /living room.
French doors open from that living room into a light-flooded sunroom
with arched windows and handmade floor tiles. Sometime after the Tweeds
left the house, a bathroom was built in this room. It recently was torn out and the room was restored to its original function and appearance.
Adjacent to the sunroom is a paneled dining room fit for a king, with a Wedgwood chandelier and space for smaller dinners of eight people or fewer. Next door is the second-floor kitchen. There are two bedrooms, including a 20-by-16-foot master bedroom, a walk-through bathroom and another bedroom on that floor.
On the attic level are three more bedrooms and a playroom. Near the
house is a four-car detached garage with an apartment above it, featuring
iron beams and hardwood floors, that once was the chauffeur’s residence.
The contention that Tweed House is the best example of Perkins’ work might
be arguable, but Lamkin says its historic value is not. “I think it’s one of the most prominent and interesting houses in the city,” he says.