Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Saint Mary's University purchases south Minneapolis landmark

$2 million anonymous gift helps fund purchase of Harrington Mansion and Events Center, formerly the Zuhrah Shrine property, on Park Avenue

MINNEAPOLIS – Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota announced today that it has finalized its purchase of the Harrington Mansion and Events Center, located adjacent to the university’s Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs (SGPP) in Minneapolis. Saint Mary’s University plans to use the property, formerly owned by the Zuhrah Shriners, for expansion of its graduate programs, community outreach, and alumni event venues.

“This is an investment both in our campus and in the Twin Cities community,” said Brother William Mann, president of Saint Mary’s University. “Saint Mary’s is expanding to meet our growth in educational offerings. We see this as an investment to not only provide educational access to those who increasingly are excluded from it, but also a commitment to help revitalize the Phillips West neighborhood.”

A growing university
Saint Mary’s University opened its Minneapolis campus at 2500 Park Avenue South in 1984 to focus primarily on graduate education, as well as meeting the needs of adult students through baccalaureate degree completion programs. Saint Mary’s helped pioneer the accelerated programming format and has experienced significant growth over the past few decades. Today Saint Mary’s SGPP is enjoying record enrollment, with more than 4,300 students enrolled.

Saint Mary’s latest expansion is the Harrington Mansion and Events Center purchase, which includes the historic mansion, carriage house, modern events center, and 100 parking spaces, encompassing 1.66 acres at 2540 Park Avenue. The mansion and carriage house consist of 30,000 square feet, and the event center has 54,000 square feet. The purchase significantly increases the size of Saint Mary’s campus footprint on Park Avenue. The purchase price of the properties is $2.75 million. A $2 million gift from an anonymous donor made the purchase possible for Saint Mary’s. Saint Mary’s will begin a campaign to raise funds for renovations of the buildings.

The mansion and carriage house will be used for online learning opportunities, office space, gatherings of alumni and friends, and performing and visual arts space. The center will be used for university events and will continue to be available for public rental. The space is ideal for meetings, corporate functions, and receptions.

Harrington Mansion history
The Harrington Mansion is an Italian Renaissance-style home built in 1902 for the family of Charles Harrington, who owned a grain processing and distribution business. The home’s architects were Frederick Kees and Serenus Colburn, who also designed the Minneapolis Grain Exchange Building and the Loring Theater (now the Music Box Theater).

The Harrington family resided in the mansion from 1902 until 1929. The property was then sold to the Zuhrah Shrine fraternal organization, which owned the property until Saint Mary’s purchased it.

“Zuhrah Shriners enjoyed more than 80 years as a vital part of the Phillips West area of Minneapolis,” said Gary Sibben, Potentate of the Zuhrah Shriners. “Rising costs and declining membership have caused us to look for a more suitable home. We are glad the property will remain an integral part of the area’s revitalization.”

The Harrington Mansion was designated historic by the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission in 1988. This designation protects the external integrity of the historic property while allowing Saint Mary’s to make modern internal renovations.

“We are grateful to the donor for enabling us to make this purchase,” said Brother William. “We are proud to become a part of the rich history of the Harrington Mansion. Saint Mary’s University intends to preserve that history while making the property highly functional for today’s learners and guests.”

To view photos, go to; To view a fact sheet about the buildings, go to or scroll to the next blog entry. To read a feature from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, go to