City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More
Before renovation.

Featured Article

Welcome to the Pillsbury Castle

A New Family Breathes Life Into the Space

Let’s step back in time for a moment.

It’s 1903 and you have been invited to a housewarming party at the magnificent Pillsbury Castle by the owner himself, Alfred Pillsbury, son of Pillsbury Co-Founder John S. 

How did you get invited, you ask? Well, perhaps you are an up-and-coming artist that Alfred would like to introduce to society. You see, to many Alfred is best known as an enthusiastic promoter of the arts who would later go on to be the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ most important patron during the first half of the 20th century. But we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves.

Right now let’s focus on the castle and its party. As you walk up to the property, the sheer size of the structure takes your breath away.

The four-level home was constructed by F.G. McMillan using the designs of architect Ernest Kennedy, costing $135,000. It was built using Platteville limestone and reflects the English Tudor Gothic style. Think pointed arches and a grand entrance.

Since it’s dusk, you can see right through the abundance of candle-lit windows to the glowing home within.

Alfred and his wife, Eleanor, welcome you inside and gather all guests for a tour of the “humble” abode. If you thought the exterior was rich with attention to detail, you are even more impressed to see how stunning the interior is.

As you move from room to room, you notice hand-carved wood paneling, a grand curved oak staircase, ornate plasterwork on the ceiling, a fireplace centerpiece and other intricate details.

Even though the magnitude of this castle could feel overwhelming to some, you get a sense of familiarity and warmth. This place reminds you of home. Which for Alfred and Eleanor, it is. A place to make cherished memories and live together in happiness.

This moment in time starts to fade as all echoes do, but the feeling of community and family stay rooted in the castle for generations to come.

A New Family Breathes Life Into the Castle

It’s 2024 and although the castle has seen loving residents come and go, the structure itself has started to decay, needing some serious TLC.

That’s where partners Matthew Trettel and Ryan Hanson come in.

“We purchased the house in 2023, but I had been eyeing it for years,” Matthew says. “Every time it went on the market I was drawn to it. This time around, I convinced Ryan to take a tour and as soon as we stepped inside I knew it was our home.”

Right from the beginning, the pair wanted to do something big with the space.

“Ryan and I have been preparing to start a family and we feel confident we can raise some kiddos here,” he says. “As we think about the castle on a public scale, I think it holds an opportunity to share itself with the community: share the history of Alfred and Eleanor.”

A few notable moments of Alfred’s life include being considered one of the first great Minnesota football players, owning one of the first cars in the area and running the Pillsbury company for most of his life. 

“With the help of Eleanor, he also amassed a large collection of Chinese bronze, jade and porcelain, which was donated to MIA after his death,” Matthew says. “This couple was truly remarkable. Their history needs to be told.”

So, Matthew got to work: planning just the right avenue to rediscover everything the castle has to offer.

“I knew I wanted to preserve the house as much as possible while also updating it for a modern family. Ryan and I want to live in this house as long as we can, but when another family comes along, we want to make sure they are accommodated as well.”

And so, The Pillsbury Castle Project was born.

“Preservation of the castle is the first and foremost purpose of the project,” Matthew explains. “It’s been around 120 years now, which means it requires a detailed level of preservation to maintain the integrity of the building structure, reduce the opportunity for water infiltration, and remove toxic and harmful elements currently found in the home.”

Some of that work includes repairing the slate roof, copper gutters and downspouts; repairing and reconstructing elements of the masonry, notably on the front facade where cracked lintels and window moldings are prominent; restoring the windows; and creating period-replicated storm windows.

“In addition to the preservation work, we are focusing on transforming the home into an exhibition of fine furnishings, art and technology,” Matthew says. 

To do this, they partnered with the American Society of Interior Designers Minnesota (ASID MN), allowing 30 unique designers one room each to beautify.

“We are also collaborating with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry,” he says. “Which is super exciting because we are using eight general contractors. Each one gets to show off their skills. We started construction last summer, and so far so good.”

With the help of all partners, the project has been able to reinvigorate ASID MN’s Design Home showcase, which was on a seven-year hiatus. 

“Design Home will use our house for its public tours later this year,” Matthew says. “The whole intention behind working with both the ASID and NARI is to give artisans, designers and contractors a place to showcase their skills on such a high-level project. I think it’s really important for the public to be able to fully experience their work in a contextual way, not just by looking at a picture through a screen.”

The details

Let’s break down what’s being done to the home.

Since its inception, few permanent changes have been made to the exterior of the house, except for the addition of a four-car attached garage by past owners. Matthew and Ryan don’t plan on changing much either besides all the preservation work previously mentioned.

As for the interior – a full transformation is underway.

“It’s really a complete remodel of the entire building,” Michael Anschel, owner of OA Design+Build+Architecture, says. “We are touching every part of the structure.”

OA was selected as a general contractor overseeing construction for the entire Pillsbury Castle Project.

On the lower level, the basement is being completely redone to include a home theater, game room, workout room, home spa, wine cellar, billiards room and hidden speakeasy lounge.

Then on the main floor, there will be mostly large gathering spaces, such as a music room, grand entrance, living room, dining room and bar. This is all connected in the back by two kitchens, a primary one and then a scullery.

As one moves up the stairs, the two upper levels of the home will have a series of en-suites. The second floor will have a primary bedroom, guest bedroom, kid’s bedroom, laundry and office/library. Then on the top floor, there will be two more guest bedrooms, a large informal gathering space with a pizza oven, and a small apartment with its own cooking area.

Throughout the entire house, all bathrooms are being updated to modern standards and, as previously touched upon, every room will have a different interior designer putting together the finishing touches, including paint color, furnishings and lighting. They also have to find decor and artwork up to par with Alfred Pillsbury’s taste. He was an art connoisseur after all.

“There is even an elevator which goes across all four floors,” Michael says. “Most of the interior of the house will be wrapping up construction and design in the coming months. Then we will have a little bit of work on the exterior to finish, but everything is expected to be complete by spring of 2025.”

Matthew adds, “We are beyond thrilled to see everything come together. We’ve been so selective in what we’re modifying because every decision we make is significant. I hope Alfred and Eleanor would be proud of the work we’re doing. We are just stewards of this space, the home really belongs to them.”

For exclusive updates on the progress of the Pillsbury Project, visit

  • Before renovation.
  • Before renovation.
  • Before renovation.
  • Before renovation.
  • Before renovation.
  • Before renovation.
  • Before renovation.
  • Before renovation.
  • Before renovation.
  • After rendings.
  • After rendings.
  • After rendings.
  • After rendings.