For 25 years, travelers who passed through Hastings couldn't help but notice the empty, neglected, but once elegant home that stood quietly right off busy Hwy. 61. The home obviously had a grand past, and many passersby may have wondered about the stories the old house had to tell.
The home recently opened its doors to visitors and is sharing its stories with them. The LeDuc House has undergone a complete renovation at the hands of the Dakota County Historical Society, with funding through the Minnesota Historical Society.
The four-bedroom Gothic Revival home, built in 1865-66, is an architectural gem. It sits on a four-acre estate along with a carriage barn, ice house, apple orchard, and grape arbor.
The home was built for William and Mary LeDuc, who raised their four children here. LeDuc was an officer during the Civil War, made his living as an attorney and entrepreneur, and served as U.S. Commissioner of Agriculture. He was an "idea man" who championed the development of American-grown teas and sugar beets. But the family was never wealthy, and the daughters ran a needlework business from the home.
There are tours and exhibits focus on the fascinating stories of the people who fashioned this estate, including the LeDuc family, farm manager George Daniels, a black freeman, and the estate's designer, Andrew Jackson Downing.
Downing, an architect and landscape gardener, published a book of designs for country homes, and the LeDucs used one of Downing's designs for their home. Downing was a major figure in American landscape and home design in the 19th century, especially in the Hudson Valley and the northeast U.S.
It adds to the historical significance of the LeDuc estate. The buildings and grounds are one of the most complete, unaltered examples of Downing's designs in the country.
The LeDuc House Historic Site is on the east side of Hwy. 61 south of the Hwy. 55 intersection in Hastings, on the southeast edge of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Tours are offered on Thursday-Sunday, May-October.