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Turnblad Mansion & Collections

Mansion Musings: Fossils in the Façade

Explore the Turnblad Mansion’s carved stone exterior and some of its most unique features in this episode of Mansion Musings
May 5, 2021 By Eric Wilson


Ginny Lackovic shades her eyes from the sun as she gazes up at a carved stone gargoyle perched on the Turnblad Mansion. A Historic Preservation Specialist and Project Architect at HGA Architects and Engineers, Ginny has contributed to the preservation of some of Minnesota’s most iconic structures – from the Minnesota State Capitol to Fort Snelling, the Orpheum Theater to Northrop Auditorium. Her eyes now turn to the Turnblad Mansion where she spearheads a range of activities that will preserve the building for future generations.

“That’s really of the whole point of historic preservation. To conserve and protect facets of our collective history that are truly irreplaceable.”

When the Turnblad Mansion was first constructed, masonry experts Herman Schlink and Albert Corwin carved the building’s façade and its unique features out of a sedimentary rock known as Bedford Limestone. Quarried from a narrow geologic formation in south-central Indiana, and used in some of the nation’s most iconic structures including the Empire State Building, this high quality stone is formed from the accumulation of shell-bearing marine organisms. Small fossils and fossil fragments – from the Mississippian age, 340 to 335 million years ago – are still visible to the public on the Mansion’s exterior.

Among many other features, the fabulous Horse Head carving is an example of Schlink and Corwin’s exceptional craftsmanship. Relocated during construction of the Nelson Cultural Center, this work of art underwent conservation treatment and now remains accessible to ASI visitors thanks to support from a generous anonymous donor. It now overlooks the inside entrance to the museum adjacent to the Carriage House doors.

The Mansion’s east-facing Veranda – the original entrance to the Turnblad Mansion – is another superb masonry example. With its impressively carved banisters and balustrades, raised surface above street level, and the backdrop of the Mansion itself, the Veranda has been the site of many important events in Minnesota history. It’s a place for education through ongoing ASI programs, and the setting of thousands of weddings and moments of importance in the lives of ASI’s community members.

Ginny joins Curt Pederson, ASI’s Senior Curator of Historic Properties, in the second episode of Mansion Musings, ASI’s video series that explores some of the many untold stories and unique features of the Turnblad Mansion. In this episode, Ginny and Curt explore some of the Mansion’s iconic stoneworks, and discuss what steps can be taken – with the support of the community – to preserve the building’s irreplaceable character for the future.

Contribute today to the preservation of the Turnblad Mansion.

About Mansion Musings

Join Curt Pederson, ASI’s former Senior Curator of Historic Properties, on a journey into what it takes to preserve the historic Turnblad Mansion. In this video series, Curt and a host of special guests explore some of the unique, complex – and often unseen – activities that ASI and other historic preservation experts undertake every day. Follow along as each episode looks at a different project performed to preserve the Turnblad Mansion, Carriage House and historic grounds in their entirety for future generations.