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The Living Room

The Living Room is the most formal room in the Residence. It was used for large parties and receptions by the Irvines. Olivia Irvine Dodge remembers her parents having costume parties and balls in this room. Additionally, all three of the Irvine daughters held their wedding receptions in this room. The room has also hosted wedding receptions for the children of Governors LeVander, Perpich, and Carlson.

One month after this house was donated to the State of Minnesota in 1965, and three days after Governor Karl and Florence Rolvaag moved in, Crown Prince Harald of Norway was scheduled to pay an official visit. The Rolvaags were faced with furnishing the mostly empty 15,000 square foot home in 30 days. The Governor was quoted as saying “we must beg, borrow or steal enough furniture to make the house look presentable.” Minnesota residents loaned enough pieces so that the house looked lived in by the time the Crown Prince arrived. At the conclusion of the prince’s visit, the furniture was returned to the original owners, and work began in earnest to update the residence. After four months, a new kitchen, new carpeting, lighting fixtures, bath fixtures, and tiles were installed.

The room is 19 feet by 39 feet and is the largest room in the house. The walls and folding doors are paneled in mahogany. There is a series of panels along the top of the walls, decoratively carved with an arch and pilaster design. That pattern is repeated above the fireplace in a more elaborate form. The dark green marble fireplace has a Tudor arch along with a hand-carved mantel and pilasters decorated with Ionic capitals. The surround has a carved Tudor rose motif. The ceiling has curved symmetrical plaster moldings and cornice.

In 2005, the furnishings in the Living Room were updated through the generosity of the 1006 Summit Avenue Society. The Society donated new drapery, furniture, and accessories to lighten the ambiance and create a more functional space for entertaining. The piano in the Living Room belongs to the Residence and is often played by a hired musician during event gatherings. The Irvines had a piano, too, which was sometimes in the sun room, and sometime in this room, and the grandchildren often sang carols at Christmas time. Granddaughter Clover Fobes Earl recalls her favorite hors d’oeuvre was served here: crumbled bacon on top of peanut butter and toast.