Vestibule and Entrance Hall
The vestibule is a Victorian invention intended to create greater warmth and convenience in a home.
The exterior double doors are decorated with wrought iron grillwork. The interior glass entry doors have 36 panels, six of which have a faintly colored flower and leaf design in the Art Nouveau style. Built-in wood benches were intended for boot storage.
The entrance hall sets the stage for what visitors will see throughout the Residence. Typical Tudor features represented in this room include the two interior balconies, the elegant staircase with carved balusters and newel posts, which was
a Tudor invention (previously, stairs circled around a central pillar), wood paneling,
which was used extensively in Tudor buildings, and decorative ceiling elements.
Olivia Irvine Dodge recalls sitting on the stairs as a little girl and peeking through the railings as her parents entertained. Her earliest memory is of "Santa Claus" arriving on Christmas Eve, covered in snow and stomping his feet. Years later, she learned that Santa was actually Slunkey Norton, the family’s chimney sweep.
In the Victorian age, the centrally located entrance hall was where the entire family gathered to greet important guests. It is also one of the rooms where men and women could properly mingle, according to the etiquette of the time. Today, this room is used by the Governor to welcome guests and for large receptions.
While the Irvines actively participated in St. Paul social life, they preferred to host quiet dinner parties at their home.
Curved ceilings were often found in Tudor country house to add height to rooms on the main floor. The walls and folding doors are paneled in Circassian walnut. The floor covering is a modern Chinese rug, in an ancient Mandrake pattern, donated in 2008 by the 1006 Summit Avenue Society.
This dining space can accommodate up to 18 guests at one long table, and the room is used often for official breakfast meetings, lunches and dinners.
One of the challenges for homes along Summit Avenue is the lack of light. The solarium brings in most of the natural light on the main floor and also creates a direct visual connection to the beautifully landscaped gardens. The solarium was a favorite room of the Irvines, who enjoyed this space so much they doubled its size in 1922.
The walls are made of white stone ashlars, which were steam cleaned in 2006, restoring them to their original color. The ceiling is paneled and beamed. The light fixtures are original to the addition in 1922.
It was in this room where Olivia met Eleanor Roosevelt. Olivia was an avid collector of FDR memorabilia as a child. When Mrs. Roosevelt was visiting in St. Paul, she was told of Olivia’s collection and asked to see it. They had tea here and discussed Olivia’s hobby for hours.
drawing room is the most formal room in the Residence and
was used by the Irvines for large parties and receptions. Olivia Irvine Dodge recalled her parents hosting costume parties and balls in
this room. Additionally, all three Irvine daughters, as well as the
daughters of three governor (LeVander, Perpich and Carlson), had wedding receptions in this room.
Olivia recalls a treasured family memory of the drawing room. Her father, Horace Hills Irvine, pretending to be a bear to scare the grandchildren, wrapped himself in a bearskin rug. He was standing in the foyer roaring while the children were laughing when Olivia answered the door and admitted the family’s personal banker. Mr. Irvine was horrified to be seen in such undignified manner and the family teased him about it for years.
The room is 19-feet by 39-feet and at 741 square feet is the largest in the house. The walls and folding doors are paneled in mahogany. A series of panels, located along the top of the walls, are decoratively carved with an arch-and-pilaster design. The pattern is repeated in a more elaborate form above the fireplace. The dark green marble fireplace has a Tudor arch, along with a hand-carved mantel and pilasters decorated with Ionic capitals. The ceiling has curved symmetrical plaster moldings and cornices. The surround has a carved Tudor rose motif. The breakfront displays hand-blown art glass on loan from the Swedish American Institute. The Governor deeply appreciates the Swedish American Institute's willingness to loan this collection to the Residence.
The east porch, a favorite of Mrs. Irvine’s during the summertime, features a red Spanish tile floor and a beam-and-panel ceiling similar to the solarium. The light fixtures are wrought iron from the early 20th century.
The east porch, where the sounds of the fountain can be heard through the screens, remains a popular room for relaxation. Weather permitting, it is also wonderful place for receiving guests and hosting breakfast meetings.
Transportation in the early part of the century was often by horse and buggy. After guests
disembarked from their carriages under the porte-cochere, their
carriage was driven to the Carriage House for washing and where the
horses were tended. The carriage was then turned
around in preparation for the guests' departure.
The Carriage house is built of the same materials as the main house. The second floor was an apartment for the chauffeur and his wife, who was the cook. This area has been remodeled as offices for the Residence staff.
The library was the room most used by the family, recalls Olivia Irvine Dodge. The Irvines loved to read and the room was filled with the latest books and periodicals. The family was also one of the first in St. Paul with a “wireless” (radio) which they purchased between 1921 and 1924. Olivia and her sister were permitted to listen to the radio in the library after they finished their homework. On Sunday nights, they loved to listen to Bing Crosby, whom, their father predicted, would “never last six weeks.”
A feature of this room is a rent table that has a round top that turns 360 degrees. The table has eight drawers, which were originally used by landlords to hold leases for tenants. The trunk located in the corner of the room was built to hide a full-size television that could be raised and lowered by remote control. This unique feature helps retain the historic integrity of the home while incorporating modern conveniences.
The hallway leads to the kitchen, back staircase and security office.
The telephone and call panel located in the hall outside the library door are part of the original communication system that was installed shortly after the home was built. One could call any other station in the home, over to the Carriage House or place and receive outside calls. While the phones are no longer operational, they provide a great view into what at the time was the most advanced technology available.
The kitchen is separated from the dining room by the butler’s pantry.
The kitchen and butler’s pantry have been renovated for more efficient food service for the many functions at the Residence. The design of the current cabinets was copied from the original; the countertops are Minnesota Cold Spring granite; and the floor is hexagonal white ceramic tile with a gray and white checked border.