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Last year, Matthew Trettel and Ryan Hanson went out on a limb when they bought the Alfred F. Pillsbury mansion, a 120-year-old, 12,000-square-foot English Tudor Revival in the Whittier neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Trettel had kept tabs on the house when it hit the market, captivated by the Platteville limestone exterior and beautiful woodwork in the listing photos. He and Hanson finally booked a showing and discovered it was even more impressive in person. They were pleasantly surprised by the abundant natural light and comfortable proportions of the rooms.

"It felt like a home," Trettel said.

Even more, it felt like a calling. "So many of these amazing homes have been torn down or converted to commercial use," he said. "We thought it was important to have some of them remain in their true form as private homes."

Although Trettel and Hanson wanted to be faithful to the original design, they also needed the home to function well for modern life. "We don't live in 1903. We live in 2024 and this isn't a museum — it's our home, where we plan to raise a family," Trettel said.

The original wood, stonework and other architectural details, such as intricate plaster ceilings, were in good shape, but the layout reflected an era when homes this size would have had live-in staff.

"Instead of 'Upstairs, Downstairs,' it was front of the house, back of the house," Trettel said. The back he refers to as a jigsaw puzzle of small rooms and narrow passageways designed so staff could discreetly serve the owners and guests in the front of the home.

The couple wanted to simplify the configuration, renovate the kitchen and bathrooms and bring new life to all the other rooms. They also needed to overhaul all the home's mechanical systems (including replacing a basement boiler the size of a Prius).

Hanson and Trettel, who each own an event company, are good at organizing and juggling multiple projects. But even so, this was going to be a very heavy lift. They figured it was a 30-year project they could chip away at while they lived here.

Then Trettel remembered that the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) took on a showcase house every so often. He reached out to the local chapter. For ASID, it was an easy decision.

"We always have our eye out for good showcase homes, and this one hit all the marks — historical, grand architecture with lots of well-proportioned rooms to let our designers demonstrate their skill," said Christine Happel, ASID Showcase 2024 co-chair.

Ushering a new era

The home was built in 1903 at a cost of $135,000 for Alfred and Eleanor Pillsbury. Alfred was the only son of Pillsbury flour co-founder and former Gov. John S. Pillsbury and, by all accounts, a modern man. He played football for the University of Minnesota and was an early adopter of high-wheel bicycles and automobiles. He ardently supported the arts and the Minneapolis park system, believing that public parks were essential to well-being long before that was conventional wisdom.

The Pillsburys were a tight-knit family. Alfred's sister Sarah lived across the street in an Italian Renaissance-inspired home (now Gale Mansion events center). Alfred's first cousin also lived nearby (his house was demolished), and his second cousin built an English Gothic mansion next door (currently a training center for blind people).

He and Eleanor lived in the mansion until they died in 1946 and 1950, respectively. Since then, the mansion has had its own journey — as housing for seminary students, the offices of an architectural firm, an advertising agency, an Airbnb and a private home.

More than 30 ASID members worked together to transform the mansion into Hanson and Trettel's family home. Each room was designed by a design team, while students from the University of Minnesota College of Design were tasked with the children's playroom.

Throughout the home, intricate wood and stonework were restored, while contemporary fixtures, wallpaper and furniture added a breath of fresh air.

Showstoppers include a Mary Poppins-inspired children's bedroom by Lucy Penfield with a play stage hand-painted by Children's Theatre Company scenic designer Mary Novodvorsky. David Wehrspann and Shane Spencer repurposed the basement bank vault (where Alfred once kept his priceless collection of Asian art) into a glamorous speakeasy. The bar is conveniently located next to a new billiard room, with the original wood-lined 17th-century wall library that Alfred had shipped from England.

Furnishings by local makers and artists include light fixtures by Hennepin Made and hand-painted mural by She She in the grand staircase and second-floor hallway. An eglomise (gilded silverleaf) peacock by decorative artist Amy Ouradnik in the first-floor Peacock Lounge is inspired by another peacock Trettel and Hanson saw at Southways, the now-demolished Pillsbury estate on Lake Minnetonka.

Ryan Hanson, left, and Matthew Trettel in the billiards room of their home, the Pillsbury mansion in Minneapolis.
Ryan Hanson, left, and Matthew Trettel in the billiards room of their home, the Pillsbury mansion in Minneapolis.

Leila Navidi, Star Tribune

Showtime for Pillsbury Castle

After nine months of restoration and renovation, the home, now dubbed the Pillsbury Castle, is ready for the spotlight. It will be open for tours for two weeks as the 2024 ASID Minnesota Design Home. (The last time ASID Minnesota featured a showcase was in 2017.)

Hanson and Trettel were very involved in the renovation, in part because it was on a tight deadline.

"What we've done in nine months is unheard of," said Trettel. "There have been days when 30 people are working in the house simultaneously."

The Pillsbury family supported local artisans, and the couple said renovating the mansion with local designers was one way to pay tribute.

Trettel and Hanson said they can't wait to welcome people into their home for the tour. They want to showcase the work that's been done on it, the neighborhood and the way grand old houses can function in a way that honors yesterday, today and tomorrow.

"We're just stewards of Alfred and Eleanor's house, doing everything we can to preserve it for the next 120 years," Trettel said.

If you go

What: ASID Design House 2024, in collaboration with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

When: July 12-28.

Where: 116 E. 22nd St., Mpls.

Tickets: $35 tour; $150 opening night gala. Must be reserved in advance at

Laurie Junker is a Twin Cities-based writer specializing in home design and architecture.