Newspaperman Swan Turnblad, owner and publisher of Svenska Amerikansak Posten, the largest Swedish language newspaper in the U.S., did what many affluent people did at the turn of the century. He built an imposing residence, which would later come to be known as the Turnblad Mansion or "Castle." It was a way to impress the community and display his wealth.
Swan and Christina Turnblad officially lived in the mansion from 1908 to 1929, although they also maintained an apartment. In 1929, the Turnblad family donated their mansion at Park Avenue, Svenska Amerikanska Posten and the Posten office building and residence downtown, to the American Institute for Swedish Art, Literature and Science - now known as the American Swedish Institute.
The Turnblad family, Swan, wife Christina and daughter Lillian, took trips to Europe which inspired the building's French Chateauesque style. In 1903, the Turnblads commissioned architects Christopher Boehme and Victor Cordella to design their mansion. In the spring of 1903, the family purchased six lots on the corner of 26th and Park Avenue and got a building permit. Construction of the mansion took approximately five years.
The masonry constructor of the house was Ben (Bengt) Aronson, who with his brother Louis did the masonry work on the Minneapolis Court House, the first three floors of the Guaranty Loan Building, Temple Court, Dania Hall and the Donaldson’s Glass Block. Chicago Art Institute-trained artist Herman Schlink executed much of the detailed exterior stone carving on the building as well as the plaster ornamentation in all the ceilings.
The cabinet and woodworking firm Aaron Carlson Company, still in existence today, did all the woodwork. The company sent out a call and soon had 18 craftsmen assigned to the job. The highly detailed woodcarvings were done by hand-selected artists Ulrich Steiner and Albin Polasek.
The Turnblads purchased eleven tile stoves, or kakelugnar, in Sweden. Two were made by the Rörstrand Porcelain Company in Stockholm; seven at the Uppsala-Ekeby Porcelain Factory in Uppsala and two are unidentified. No two are alike. Since central heating had been installed in the mansion, they were probably purchased mainly for decorative purposes.
The “barn” or the carriage house, housed Turnblad’s automobiles. It had a turntable that was used to turn the automobiles around. There is some documentation to suggest that Swan Turnblad was the first person in Minneapolis to own a commercially manufactured electric automobile.
Swan and Christina Turnblad officially lived in the mansion from 1908 to 1929, but they also retained an apartment during that time, which may be where they largely lived especially after 1915. In the census of 1910, two servants living in the carriage house are mentioned at the Turnblad mansion: John and Carolina Gustafsson, a married couple, (married 1892) both immigrated 1890.
In December 1929, the Turnblad family donated their mansion at Park Avenue, Svenska Amerikanska Posten and the Posten office building and residence downtown, to the American Institute for Swedish Art, Literature and Science - what eventually came to be the American Swedish Institute.
Adapted from “Snoose Boulevard and The Golden Mile: Swedish immigrant life in Minneapolis in the early 1900s”, by Ebbe Westergren