A barn story for Christmas. ❤️
And now for the rest of the story…
If you guys remember, last week I randomly came across a farm for sale in my area (my real estate shopping habits die hard even when I have a farm I love!) and although the listing simply said “6 large outbuilding” and had no photos, the satellite view piqued me interest and made me start looking closer.
In the last week since my curiosity got the best of me, I have gotten to chat with all the local historical societies, a local PBS film producer and finally, the owner himself. I just HAD to know more about how such a huge, unique barn came into existence. And it’s winter in the far north, this is how I amuse myself. 🙂
So here is what I know about “The Million Dollar Farm”.
It was built in 1920 by Edward Thulin, Sr. He was a born in Wisconsin, the son of a Swedish immigrant. He moved to Minneapolis and seems to have had some success in real estate…appearing regularly in the financial section of city newspapers as he wheeled and sealed through various major real estate transactions. By the middle of the 1910s, he was advertising in the Minneapolis Star Tribune looking to trade his large apartment building in the city for a “good, improved farm”. In 1920, the Minneapolis Morning Tribune reported Thulin sold his “Bristol, Eldorado and Rock Island Apartment at 5th Street South and 8th Avenue for a whopping $250,000…over $3.7 million in today’s dollars.
Thulin’s search for a farm ultimately landed him in Yellow Medicine County in west central Minnesota, just outside the small town of Granite Falls. There he took an apparently large part of his wealth and built his masterpiece–the huge, L-shaped gambrel barn with Tudor-style siding. One 100 foot wing housed pedigreed dairy cattle and the other wing housed equally pedigreed horses. It was a massive barn that likely dominated the skyline when the prairie around it had sparser trees.
The farm also had a large hog facility as well as equipment sheds, all built in the same grand style. I personally have never seen any other barn like it, in the midwest or elsewhere. The closest I have seen would be some very old European barns. It’s an inspired piece of architecture.
In the 1920s, the barn was hit by a tornado. Thulin was undeterred and completely rebuilt the farm. This is when the farm’s local nickname was born—“The Million Dollar Farm”…referring the immense cost of building not just once, but twice.
The farm passed to Thulin’s son Edwin Jr. in the 1960s and then his son James in the 1990s. It has long since been abandoned as a livestock showplace but instead rented to tenant farmers for the cropland that surrounds it. It is now on the market for $4.5 million (for all 446 acres) and while I did ask the current owner if he would consider selling just the 15 acres with the buildings (not that I could afford that either, LOL), he said he only wants to sell it as a complete parcel.
I cross my fingers and hope that whomever does buy it sees the value in the beautiful buildings and at least considers restoration…or even documentation and photos before they tear it down. It truly hearkens back to another time and place…where a son of immigrants celebrated his New World wealth with the most ultimate display of Old World status: The Million Dollar Farm.
Photo provided by James Thulin–his grandparents after the tornado in the 1920s, after which they rebuilt

Related Posts