The Sibley House was built in 1836 for Henry Hastings Sibley, regional manager for the American Fur Company. The first floor was designed for business operations, and the second floor was his bachelor's residence. Two additions were made to the house after 1843, when Sibley married Sarah Jane Steele. The rear addition expanded the living space and added a kitchen and dining area, while the office on the left served as his business headquarters. Sibley also lived here when he served as the first Governor of Minnesota from 1858-1860. The Sibley family moved to St. Paul in 1862.
Largely run-down and abandoned by 1900, the Sibley House was saved by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Purchased for $1 from the Archdiocese of St. Paul in 1910, the DAR spent the next four decades restoring and furnishing the houses and other outbuildings you see today.
Also gone are the barns and outbuildings from Sibley's era, including a kennel that housed his large brood of dogs. An avid hunter, Sibley kept at least a dozen dogs including his favorite, an Irish Wolfhound/Scottish Deerhound mix named Lion who had the run of the house. A massive painting of Lion still adorns his office today.
Directly across the street from the Sibley House stood two vast warehouses for the goods and furs that made up the bulk of the fur trade. Destroyed when the railroad came through Mendota in the 1860s, they only appear in paintings and sketches made before the Civil War.
To the left is the Cold Store, built about 1843 to store the thousands of furs that came to the site each spring from far-flung posts along the Minnesota River and its tributaries. Largely collapsed when the DAR bought the site, they restored it as a carriage house. Today the building is restored to its original 1840s appearance and is used as a spot to talk about the 19th-century fur trade.
Historic Fort Snelling
Minnesota Historical Society
Sibley House Historic Site
All images are from the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society