I visited the American Swedish Institute Sunday, housed in what was once the Turnblad mansion, located in South Minneapolis. It is an impressive edifice. Constructed of stone, filled with wood carvings, decorative plaster, elaborate tile stoves, and a stunning stained glass window, it is truly monumental in scale and execution.
Whenever I visit a castle, manor house or mansion, it usually seems to be out of scale as a domicile. Where would one "curl up" with a treasured book? Would the cavernous rooms magnify every sound, echoing each footstep, giving one the impression of someone (or something!) sneaking up on one? The distant murmurs of the servants, the silences of lonely evenings- the Turnblads were said to have a limited social life. Then why the ballroom on the third floor, and, in an alcove off from it, a small spiral staircase leading to a outdoor balcony for two?
Currently, the Institute has displays, a gift store and other exhibits. But it is good to know that it does indeed host the occasional social function- especially when Scandinavian Royalty visits Minnesota. A house should be lived in, a museum of a dwelling easily becomes a masoleum, a house of the dead.