How Swede It Is

Ever wanted to visit a castle? You might feel like you have after a visit to the Turnblad Mansion in Minneapolis. Home of the American Swedish Institute, this French Chateauesque mansion was built in 1908. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the mansion features turrets and gargoyles that lend to its castle-like appearance.

The American Swedish Institute (ASI) honors the Nordic background of many Minnesotans. Swedish immigrant Swan J. Turnblad founded the ASI in 1929. The institute is a great place to learn about Swedish, Swedish-American, and Nordic culture and the role of immigrants in Minnesota’s history. Inside, the mansion includes 33 rooms decorated in period style and several exhibits.

American Swedish Institute  A Nordic Christmas

Photos by morgan sheff photography

The ASI closed last spring to undergo extensive renovations and add a cultural center. Renovations to the Turnblad mansion focused on the lower level and efforts to improve accessibility. The adjacent Nelson Cultural Center (opening in 2012), a 34,000-square-foot LEED-certified addition, will include an art gallery, studio, lecture hall, museum shop and café.

When you visit the ASI, consider taking their Ring-a-Tour by dialing 888-411-3155 (English or Swedish) or using your smart phone. The audio tour includes 21 60-second stops. You can also explore the building with the help of a podcast (English or Swedish) or pick up the 16-page Tomte Tour booklet for families. The ASI even has an iPad app. And don’t miss out on the ASI store, which added more Swedish fiction last spring (due to the popularity of Stieg Larsson’s Girl With a Dragon Tattoo series).

The ASI reopens tomorrow (Saturday, November 12). In celebration of Minnesota’s Scandinavian heritage, this Minneapolis museum presents A Nordic Christmas, its annual exhibit that studies the traditions of several Nordic countries. The museum really kicks off its celebrations next weekend with the Christmas Fair and Reopening Celebration (Nov. 19 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.).