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Remembering Carroll Simmons: Hastings antique dealer gave LeDuc mansion to state 55 years ago

Fifty-five years ago Carroll Simmons gave the LeDuc Historic Estate to the Minnesota Historical Society. Beginning during Rivertown Days, July 20, and continuing through Oct. 27, 2013, Simmons will be honored as stories about him will be included in the regular guided tours. These special tours will include the showing of the video in the library, sharing of information as to how the house looked during the Simmons era, and an explanation of how the life of Carroll Simmons and the LeDucs was intertwined.

In the carriage barn there will be an opportunity for visitors to view the interviews completed by Heidi Langenfeld through Hastings Community TV as she visited with people who knew Carroll Simmons. The display case in the parlor will feature beautiful pieces that were either purchases or gifts from Simmons.

Carroll Simmons was born to Frank and Ellen Pringle Simmons at Cloverly Farm, Marshan Township in 1902. At the age of 12 he developed a keen interest in antiques, already refinishing furniture and becoming an accomplished cabinetmaker. He graduated from Hastings High School in 1923, took some courses in architecture and forestry at the University of Minnesota and served in the United States Army.

When Simmons was 23, he borrowed $2,000 to finance a buying trip to the East. Upon his arrival back home in Hastings he was able to sell this furniture of the highest quality to the wealthy of St. Paul. This launched his career in the antique business and he was able to quickly repay the loan.

In 1928 Mabel Gardner, one of the LeDuc granddaughters, opened a tea room and antique shop in the LeDuc house. Simmons was invited to display some of his best pieces in the LeDuc house. By 1930 Simmons moved his entire business to “The Chateau” which he liked to call the house. By 1940 he purchased the entire estate and business increased significantly. In fact, the house was packed from third floor through the cellar with high quality antiques. The yard, verandas, sheds, and carriage barn were loaded with very special items.

In 1958 when Hastings was booming, Simmons had the opportunity to sell the entire property to land developers. He knew this was not the correct thing to do. Instead, he gave the entire property to the Minnesota Historical Society.

He continued his prosperous antique business until 1985. It was his dream that the house would be restored and be open to visitors; however, he did not live to see this happen as he died in 1992.

After nearly 20 years and with legislative funding, the doors were opened to the public in May, 2005. In June, 2005, the property was turned over to the City of Hastings and today is managed by the Dakota County Historical Society.

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