Places to go: The LeDuc Historic Estate
Every day some 30,000 cars pass by the most recognizable and significant historic home in Hastings, the LeDuc Historic Estate. Located at 1629 Vermillion Street, the home was built for two prominent early Minnesotans during the Civil War, General William LeDuc and his wife, Mary.
William LeDuc moved to Minnesota in 1853, finding a variety of opportunities as a lawyer, stationary supplier, land speculator, immigration promoter and investor while living in St. Paul. He and his wife eventually moved to Hastings, where William pursued milling and farming, and continued his work with railroads. It was after living in Hastings for several years that the LeDucs decided to build their dream home, the mansion we know now as the LeDuc Historic Estate.
Unfortunately for the LeDuc family, the Civil War broke out just as they were beginning construction. Trusting in the contractors to finish the job, Mary moved back to her mother's home in Ohio with the children while William volunteered for the Union Army. William was commissioned a captain in the quartermaster corps and served with distinction throughout the war.
William strongly believed in government service and was successful in securing the post of Commissioner of Agriculture to President Rutherford B. Hayes. After his stint as commissioner, William spent his remaining years searching out and trying new business ventures.
The LeDuc children inherited William's entrepreneurial spirit. Two daughters, Florence and Alice, founded Hastings Needlework, a nationally recognized fine needlework company in the early 1900s. At the height of the business, they employed about 30 local women. The LeDuc's only son, Willie, strived to become an author most of his adult life but like his father, met with only limited success. The third LeDuc daughter, Minnie, opened a tea and antique business at the estate in the 1920s.
In 1940, a distant relative of the LeDucs, Carroll Simmons, bought the home from the LeDuc daughters for his antique business. Simmons appreciated the historic value of the estate and in 1958, he donated it to the Minnesota Historical Society.
The Dakota County Historical Society (DCHS) operates the estate on behalf of the city, providing tours and special events that celebrate the intriguing history of Hastings and the region. The estate is open several days a week for guided tours, the only way to see the national register site. The season runs from late spring/early summer to fall, and admission is modest. The estate is available all year by reservation for group tours, family reunions, weddings, or other events.
The 2012 tour season will run from late May through October. The estate is usually open the first two weekends in November and December as well for holiday shopping, Christmas tours and historic brunches. For more information, go to the DCHS website at www.