Fall Tour 2019

Metcalf Residence

Saturday, October 5, 2019
9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

MNSAH’s Fall Tour features the Metcalf residence in Afton, located fifteen miles east of downtown St. Paul. The property consists of the main house and two guest houses designed in the International style by architect Brooks Cavin Jr.

Metcalf-residence-guesthouse Metcalf-Landscape St-Paul-Pioneer-Press Guesthouse-Fireplace main-house-plan Brooks-Cavin-Jr
Floor plan for the main residence. Brooks Cavin Papers, Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries, Minneapolis.

The buildings are located on a hillside along the southern perimeter of the property to take advantage of expansive views over a picturesque marsh and woodland. The buildings step down the hillside, integrating them into the site rather than competing with the natural landscape, which encompasses 180 acres.

The main house and one guest house were completed in 1959. The second guest house was built in 1967. The one-story buildings share common design characteristics of the International style including an emphasis on horizontality, flat roofs, unornamented surfaces, and façade composition that includes large window groupings and expanses of windowless masonry wall surfaces.

The interior of the main house includes many distinctive features such as a multi-colored tile floor in a range of geometric shapes, a fireplace with a copper hood and a cantilevered stone hearth, and numerous built-ins. However, the most notable feature is a rare central atrium.

The kitchen is a remarkably well-designed space with an array of high-end cabinetry, fixtures, and built-in appliances that reflect the rapidly expanding range of consumer products that were introduced in the post-World War II era. The house also contains other innovative products including an intercom system, a fire detection system, central lighting controls, and dimmer lights.

Reverend George and Mary Metcalf

Reverend George Metcalf was an Episcopal priest. During World War II he served as the Assistant Third U. S. Army Chaplain and personal chaplain to General George S. Patton Jr. After the war, Metcalf returned to St. Paul and served at St. Paul’s On-the-Hill Episcopal Church. But he and his wife, Mary, focused much attention on the development of their Afton property and its use as a religious retreat center. Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that the main house includes a chapel.

MNSAH members Ben and Sally Scott were acquainted with the Metcalfs. During the course of the tour, they will share their personal experiences at the Metcalf property in the 1960s.

Brooks Cavin Jr.

Brooks Cavin Jr. received a Master in Architecture degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, studying under Walter Gropius. He later worked for Eero Saarinen. In 1946, Cavin settled permanently in Minnesota and opened a practice in St. Paul after winning an international competition for the design of the Minnesota Veterans Service Building. His design, which was selected from eighty-seven submissions, is considered one of St. Paul’s first notable modern buildings.

Cavin designed residences, schools, hospitals, and a number of buildings on the University of Minnesota campus. He also taught in the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota and served as director of the St. Paul Gallery and School of Art. Cavin was also an early leader in the historic preservation movement in Minnesota and worked on the restoration of Fort Snelling and the Landmark Center. He was part of the first generation of preservation architects in the state.

Belwin Conservancy

The Metcalf property was acquired by the Belwin Conservancy from the Metcalf family in 2010. The Belwin Conservancy works to protect the St. Croix Valley through land conservation, scientifically-based ecological restoration, and by building connections between people and the natural world. A portion of the registration fee for the tour will be donated to the Belwin Conservancy.

Following the tour, you may wish to enjoy a walk on the trails of the picturesque property.


Saturday, October 5, 2019, 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


The Metcalf Residence is located at 795 Indian Trail South in Afton, Minnesota. Proceed east from St. Paul on Interstate 94; exit at Manning Avenue/Highway 95; turn right (south) on Manning Avenue/Highway 95 and immediately merge into the left turn lane; turn left (east) on Hudson Road and proceed 1.5 miles; turn right on Indian Trail South; proceed 1.0 mile to the Metcalf Residence, which will be on your left. You will be provided with parking instructions upon arrival.


$25 for MNSAH members; $40 for non-members. A portion of the fee will be donated to the Belwin Conservancy.

Join or renew at mnsah.org/join


Use the online form below or send check and names of those attending to:

Lock Bounds
2072 Iglehart Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55104

All participants will be asked to sign a hold-harmless agreement upon arriving at the Metcalf Residence.

The registration deadline is Tuesday, October 1, 2019.


Contact Rolf Anderson at 612-272-3415 or roanders6@aol.com


Comments are closed