A Short History
Construction on the LeDuc house began in 1862 and was completed in 1866. Following LeDuc’s service as Quartermaster in the Civil War, the family moved into the unfinished home in August 1865. In March 1865 he had been brevetted a brigadier general for “efficiency, intelligence, and zeal in the discharge of his duties”.
William G. LeDuc came to St. Paul, Minnesota Territory in 1850 from Ohio to open a bookstore and law office. In 1854 he purchased a quarter share in the town of Hastings from Alexander Faribault. In 1856, he and his wife Mary Bronson LeDuc, with their two daughters moved downriver to Hastings, where they had also acquired two wheat farms and 160 acres with a small grist mill on the falls of the Vermillion River. It was on this property that William and Mary decided to build their dream home.
They chose a Gothic Revival home featured in Andrew Jackson Downing’s 1852 book Cottage Residences. Downing was a pioneer in American landscape architect and author, whose reputation as a horticulturist was widespread. He inspired Americans to surround their homes with the beauty of nature and encouraged the use of good design even in planning farmsteads. More mansion than a cottage, the house has ten fireplaces; its limestone walls are three feet thick and, except for the cherry staircase rail, all the woodwork is made from white pine finished at the site. William and Mary chose three Downing designs for their rural home site; their residence, Carriage Barn, and Ice House. The estate is a complete example of the Gothic Revival style of Andrew Jackson Downing.
Carroll Simmons, a friend of the LeDuc grandchildren, purchased the home in 1940 for his antique business. In 1958 he donated the home and outbuildings with 4 acres to the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS), with the agreement that he would continue using it for his antique business until he retired, which wasn’t until 1986. Between 1986 and 2003 the future of the property was uncertain. Although it was the first property acquired by MHS, they had opened other house museums by the time they took possession. Needed repairs were done on the house and carriage barn, but the property stood empty.
Citizen groups actively sought out ways to fulfill Carroll Simmons’ vision of having the LeDuc house open to the public. In 2002 the Minnesota Legislature apportioned 1.2 million dollars in bonding funds for MHS to preserve the house and bring it up to current building codes. Agreements were executed between the Minnesota Historical Society, the City of Hastings and the Dakota County Historical Society, which resulted in city ownership and DCHS management of the site.
The site opened for tours on May 22, 2005. June 24, 2005, the Minnesota Historical Society deaccessioned the LeDuc House to the City of Hastings. As part of the agreement, the Society transferred $604,000 of net assets provided by Carroll Simmons for endowment, repairs, and maintenance of the LeDuc House.
Original Record (Civil War) I Vol. 52, Part I, pg. 663.
An American Gothic: The Life & Times & Legacy of William Gates LeDuc, Steve Werle, Dakota County Historical Society, 2004
This Business of War; Recollections of a Civil War Quartermaster, William G. LeDuc, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1963
Hastings Star Gazette, 3-20-2003
Minnesota Historical Society Annual Report, 2005