Location: 1629 Vermillion Street in Hastings, Minnesota
“A Cottage in the Rhine Style” is how Andrew Jackson Downing described his design for J. T. Headley’s Hudson highland rural home in his 1842 book, Cottage Residence, Rural Architecture & Landscape Gardening. Twenty-three years later, General William Gates LeDuc built a nearly identical home in Hastings. More a mansion than a cottage, LeDuc’s house portrays rural residential grandeur and symbolizes the man himself by its appearance of strength and refinement.
An attorney from Ohio, LeDuc settled in St. Paul in 1850, practicing law and running a bookshop. Soon after, LeDuc successfully represented a client involved in a land dispute at Vermillion Falls (now in Hastings). He was paid in land, and so began his lifelong attachment to the Hastings area. The construction of his house took many years, slowed by his absence in the Civil War and his ability to finance it from afar. By 1865, it was completed.
The house has ten fireplaces; its limestone walls are three feet thick and, except for the cherry staircase rail, all the woodwork is white pine finished at the site.
It was the first site acquired by the Minnesota Historical Society in the late 1950s. Through lease agreement, Carroll Simmons, previous owner and distant LeDuc relative, lived there until 1986.
As for LeDuc, volumes could be written about him – Civil War hero, U.S. Commissioner of Agriculture under President Hayes, railroad builder, progressive farmer, real estate speculator and more. LeDuc died in the bedroom of his home in 1917 at the age of 94.
Today, the LeDuc Historic Estate is available for tours from Mid-May thru Mid-October. Learn more about the site by registering for a tour.