One reason James J. Hill built a new home on Summit Avenue was to showcase his impressive collection of French landscape paintings. The spacious, two-story, sky-lit room was considered a model of a modern gallery when the home was completed in 1891.
Grooves along the walls enabled paintings to be hung frame to frame, several tiers high, and the skylight flooded the room with natural light — with shade provided by the large canopy and 133 carbon filament light bulbs for evening viewing.
Paintings by 19th century Romantic and Barbizon French masters such as Corot, Courbet, Millet, and Delacroix crowded the walls, bronze sculptures filled the floor space, and art books lined the shelves and tables. Today many of the works owned by Hill are part of the collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.