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Finding Minnesota: Rochester’s Historic Mayowood Mansion

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (WCCO) — The Mayo Clinic has brought international attention to Minnesota because of its exceptional reputation for medical care. And the Mayo brothers, Charles and William, are known for being the pioneering doctors who got the ball rolling more than 100 years ago.

But not many of us know whole lot about the Mayo family. Though the years, five generations of them have lived in Rochester and contributed a lot to the community.

This week in Finding Minnesota, we check out the historic Mayowood Mansion — a place where you, too, can take a tour.

It is affectionately known as “The Big House.” Take one look and you can see why.

This is the Mayowood Mansion. It’s the home that Dr. Charles H. Mayo designed and built in 1911.

“People are very interested in knowing about the Mayo family. It is a very important name in Minnesota history and as well as Rochester history. And so they are fascinated. They like learning the very unique stories about it,” said James Lundgren of the Olmsted County Historical Society.

In 1965, the next generation of Mayos donated the 38-room mansion and 10 acres surrounding it, to the Olmsted County Historical Society.

Not only that, they handed over a collection of furniture, paintings and personal items.

The house is kept as it was when the Mayos last lived there in the 1960s.

“We are very fortunate that we have a good relationship with the surviving descendents and have learned a lot from them,” Lundgren said. “There are also several books that have been written. Dr. Chuck wrote a book about his career, which was published shortly after his death.”

At one point, two generations of the family lived here at the same time, and the house was modified to be a duplex of sorts.

“When young Dr. Charlie, which would be the third generation, was going through residency at Mayo Clinic, he and his family lived in part of the house, and his parents Dr. Chuck and Alice lived in part of it,” Lundgren said.

Much of the fine china and glassware that the family used is here. The Mayos entertained guests frequently. And they did a lot of reading.

The books throughout the home reveal they were very interested in nature.

“The children were encouraged to be able to identify birds, and if they were able to do identify a certain number of them, they could get out of chores and able to see them here on the grounds,” he said.

Another example of how the Mayo family was much like many other Minnesota families, is that they measured the height of the children in the family on the walls, and they left marks and names and dates.

A rocking chair for two is one that brothers Charles and William reportedly shared after long days at the Mayo Clinic. It’s one of many symbols of a close-knit family.

Tours of the Mayowood Mansion begin on May 1 and will continue through the summer months on select days of the week.

The home is on the the National Register of Historic Places and will soon be under renovation to preserve it.

For more information, click here.

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