The Minnesota Governor’s Residence was originally designed and built as a private home for Horace Hills Irvine, a St. Paul lumberman and lawyer. The first building permit was issued in 1910, and construction was completed in 1912. The 1.5 acres of land was purchased for $7,000 and was one of the last desirable lots available at the time on Summit Avenue. Built at an estimated cost of $50,000, the original house was 14,706 square feet in size with 20 rooms, nine fireplaces, nine bedrooms, 10 bathrooms and two porches. It has since been enlarged to slightly over 16,000 square feet.
The stone and brick house was designed by William Channing Whitney, a prominent Minneapolis architect of the time. The architectural style
is an interpretation of an English Tudor country manor in the Beaux Arts style. It is interesting to note that a lumber merchant built a brick and stone house, although he did use a variety of decorative woods throughout the interior
In memory of their parents, Horace and Clotilde, the two youngest Irvine daughters, Clotilde and Olivia, donated the home to the State of Minnesota in 1965. The same year, the Minnesota Legislature passed a law accepting the donation and designating the house as the "State Ceremonial Building" for official public use for state ceremonial functions and as a governor's residence (Laws 1965 c684). The law placed the house and its management under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota Department of Administration. From 1965 until 1980, governors were permitted to propose changes to the house. The Legislature provided renovation funds, and the Department of Administration supervised the improvements. From 1965 to 1967, a committee assisted with furnishing the house, but the governor retained the authority to make changes.
The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in December 1974 and on the St. Paul Historic Sites Register in July 1978. With this designation, any renovation of the exterior of the residence must be reviewed and approved by the State Historic Preservation Office of the Minnesota Historical Society.