James J. Hill House Visit
The first week of March, Alex Olson, Activity Coordinator, took six Residents to the James J. Hill House in Saint Paul. Located on Saint Paul’s historic Summit Avenue, The James J. Hill House is Saint Paul’s largest home. Built for the Great Northern Railroad mogul, the 36,000 square foot home features 13 bedrooms and 22 fireplaces and the was named a National Historic Landmark in 1961.
The Residents took a Spark! Tour which is a sensory-based tour designed for people with memory loss and their caregivers sponsored by the James J. Hill House.
“I booked the tour quite a bit in advanced so we could get enough tickets to bring a group of residents. The tours tend to fill up fast,” said Olson.
Each month the Spark! Tours have a different theme. On this day, the tour was focused on the life of Mary Hill and her Irish heritage as St. Patrick’s Day was soon approaching.
The house is immaculate and huge. It’s roughly 36,000 square feet. In the summer they have the backyard open as well. The home is well accessible for all.
The tour took the Residents throughout many parts of the immaculate home but being roughly 36,000 square feet, the tour guide focused the tour on specific areas of the home important to Mary Hill.
The home is still lightly furnished with pieces from when the Hill family lived there. The tour guide took them through rooms that had importance to Mary Hill. The Residents saw Mary Hill’s prayer chair which was very important to her. Hill’s engagement ring and other jewelry were on display as well. The Resident’s really enjoyed hearing about her life and seeing the home.
One Resident had a unique connection to the home and remembered playing with the Hill children growing up.
“One of the Residents grew up on Summit Avenue near the house and remembers playing with some of the Hill Children. The Guide said the home the Resident played at probably would have been the home of Louis Hill, which is the home next door. It was incredible to observe her reminisce and talk about her childhood,” said Olson.
Another Resident, who really enjoys history, enthralled at the level of history the home had.
One Resident who had a successful career in construction and real estate, went along through the tour analyzing and critiquing quality of construction while making comments on what an excellent build it was.
In honor of the Irish themed tour, they had a sing-a-long and everyone sang the Irish classic, “Danny Boy” while enjoying shortbread cookies together at the end of the tour.
Olson and the Residents are looking forward to being able to go on outings again but in the meantime they are staying active and busy with many fun, creative activities while in place.
The Spark! Tours are the first Tuesday of each month. The tours are free but tickets must be reserved ahead of time. For more information on the Spark! Tours, visit their website here.