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  • Meg Ubel

MIA ON THE PRAIRIE: Discovering the Purcell-Cutts House

This 1913 Prairie School house is part of Mia’s collection, and Mia Guides have returned to giving tours there.

In addition to the collection of Prairie School furniture, art-glass windows, and architectural pieces found in Gallery 300, Mia has an entire house which is one of the most significant examples of the Prairie School style of architecture in the country. The Purcell-Cutts house, located at 2328 Lake Place near Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, was designed in 1913 by architects William Purcell and George Elmslie for Purcell’s own family. If you haven’t been to the house yet, maybe it’s time!

A group of guides has been trained to give tours of the house, which are offered on select weekends throughout the year. Here are some thoughts from of few of those guides about their experiences touring and why you should visit.

Emily Shapiro

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, my only opportunity to tour the Purcell-Cutts house had occurred during the winter months, when extra guides were needed to lead “Holiday Traditions” tours of the house. Although these tours were fun and interesting, we didn’t have as much time as we would have liked to focus on the house’s progressive-style architecture, not only because we needed time to cover the customs and decorative arts illustrated by its 1913-era Christmas decorations, but also because the winter weather conditions kept us from taking our tour groups outdoors to see the house’s exterior. Just before COVID hit, I was added to the regular PC house guide group and then … well you all know what happened.

Leading tours this summer, after the house was FINALLY re-opened for public tours, allowed me to celebrate the Purcell-Cutts House with my groups in wonderful new ways. During my June tours, the weather was splendid! It showcased the beauty of the house’s exterior and it demonstrated how the house’s design made full use of nature, water (the outside fountain), and sunlight. During my September tours, Lake Place was alive with community-wide garage sales and lots of people strolling by the house, many of whom stopped to listen to the tour and learn about the historic architectural jewel nestled toward the back of its narrow lot. I could easily imagine both William and Edna Purcell smiling down on the scene and celebrating with us the easing of the pandemic and the re-opening of their beloved home to the public.

Kristen McDougall

Many guides have never been to the Purcell-Cutts house, which always surprises me. It's only 1.4 miles from the museum! I encourage you to do yourselves a favor and schedule a visit. If you take a tour you'll learn about the philosophy and design principles behind progressive architecture. The Purcell-Cutts House is a real gem and a feast for the eyes. The museum is extremely lucky to have it.

Tours of the Purcell-Cutts House take place the second full weekend of each month, Saturdays 10:00 am to 2:00 pm and Sundays 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Check the Mia website for upcoming tour dates and to reserve a ticket:

If you’re interested in giving tours of the Purcell-Cutts house, training is planned for new guides in the spring. Watch the calendar!

For more about the Purcell-Cutts house and its connections to a long-ago health crisis, read the article by Josie Owens.

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