Photograph by Jim Brandenburg

It has long been my thought that a "place" finally selects the people who best reflect it, give it voice, and allow it to make a cultural contribution to the sum of all world culture under the sun.

Frederick Manfred

Save the Manfred House

Frederick Manfred at the Manfred House

Minnesota DNR Plans to Tear Down Manfred House

The Department of Natural Resources has decided to tear down the historic home of author Frederick Manfred in Blue Mounds State Park without exploring all of the possible alternatives.

Over time, the DNR has demonstrated that it is not interested in maintaining or preserving the house, and has made the decision to demolish it without the kind of public review that such a decision deserves. Instead, it has asked for comments on three "trailhead" concepts being considered for the site. Those concepts include "pros" and "cons," without noting the biggest negative of all: the loss of a one-of-a-kind structure.

Save the Manfred House, Inc. was formed in late 2019 because of fears that the DNR would go down this path. Our interest is in seeing that the DNR's plans be suspended until a more thorough review can occur and all reasonable funding and preservation options can be considered fully.

Help us by:

  1. Completing the survey that the DNR has set up (for only a short time, through April 5). If you care about saving the house, please reject the three concepts offered and let them know that you wish to see it preserved.
  2. Spreading the word about what is happening among your friends, sharing this website via social media (hashtag: #SaveTheManfredHouse), and writing letters to the editors of newspapers in the region.
  3. If you live in Minnesota, contact your legislators.
  4. If you'd like to help or want to learn more, contact us at info@savethemanfredhouse.org.

You can read about Manfred and his unique house below. Also see:

  • A letter from the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) about the importance of the house.
  • A media release which contains more information about it.

Frederick Manfred

In many of his more than thirty books, Manfred captured the lives of the people who lived in the Upper Midlands area (parts of Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, and Nebraska) for which he suggested the name "Siouxland" in an effort to acknowledge the Native American people who lived there first.

His novels, poems, and essays explored the region across the span of two hundred years, chronicling the generations of Native Americans, farmers, and small-town folk that loved the land he meticulously described. One of his most famous books, Lord Grizzly, told the story of Hugh Glass. Always a thorough researcher, Manfred recreated some of the trapper's famous crawl across the South Dakota prairie.

A giant in stature, Manfred also had a profound impact on literature in the Upper Midwest, teaching writing for decades and maintaining friendships with leading writers, including Sinclair Lewis, Meridel Le Sueur, Robert Bly, and many others. Writers and students from around the region came to his house on the Blue Mounds during the time he lived there.

You can see a list of Manfred's books and learn more about him from this brochure. American Grizzly, a video portrait of Manfred, includes biographical details and features him reading some of his work.

The Manfred House

Perched in his house near the top of the Blue Mounds, Manfred had a commanding view of Siouxland from which to write his tales of its people. The house was designed to blend into the landscape, and included an exposed wall of the beautiful Sioux quartzite rock that defines the surrounding area.

He wrote in a studio atop the house. You can see the sun shining through it in the photo by Jim Brandenburg, above.

The letter from SHPO to the Minnesota Historical Society concluded that the house is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The criteria it referenced that qualified the house for Register status include both its cultural significance related to Manfred's contribution to American literature and the distinctive characteristics of the design.

In 1975, Manfred sold the house to the DNR, allowing it to become part of Blue Mounds State Park. His expectation, and that of all of us, was that it would be maintained for the future.