It’s the last historic home in Minneapolis’ Loring Park neighborhood, previously served as a mortuary, was the location of a 1991 comedy movie – and could be yours for $1.
Minnesota State Colleges is selling the H. Alden Smith House at 1403 Harmon Place. The Minneapolis Community Technical College received it as a donation in 1996, but never found a viable, long-term use for it.
Now part of the Wells Family Center, the mansion was built in 1887 for the H. Alden Smith family and in 1976 was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1991, it was used for the filming of the comedy movie Drop Dead Fred starring Rik Mayall, Phoebe Cates and Carrie Fisher.
It might be haunted too. The Journal reports that crews filming the movie saw ghostly apparitions around the building.
So why is the state college system selling it for $1?
Other than it’s haunted?
Well, because it needs some serious upgrading, with a report to the Board of Trustees stating it requires $7-$20 million of investment to “stabilize and repurpose the building” for use by the technical college.
Because of the investment needed, the appraised value of the building is negative $3.3 million. Minnesota state is even offering to kick in two adjacent parcels of land, worth a combined $1.4 million, to make the deal more alluring to would-be developers.
One of these parcels of land contains the Black Box Theater, which Minnesota State is also offering to demolish at a cost of around $350,000. This would be cheaper than the $1 million it expects to spend over the next five years to maintain the mansion.
“The college has spent 20 years soliciting funds, spending thousands of hours (and dollars) managing the building, and working with numerous architects, engineers and real estate brokers to study what can be done to make this gift property work for the college,” a Minnesota State report said. “To date, no viable strategy has emerged.”
According to the Pioneer Press, developers will be expected to rehabilitate the mansion and used the adjacent land – which also has a garden as well as the theater – to build new multifamily housing.
More on the mansion
The City of Minneapolis describes the building as a “fine example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, featuring fine stone masonry, round-arched windows and a gabled, hipped roof.”
It was designed by prominent Minneapolis architect William Channing Whitney for wealthy city businessman Alden H. Smith, who earned his fortune as a co-owner of Smith & Wyman Sash and Door Company.
It was used as a mortuary for decades and briefly as a restaurant, but since being handed to the technical college has mostly been used for office and conference space.