The Germanic-American Institute’s predecessor, the Volksfest Association of Minnesota, was formed in 1957 as a collaborative group of Germanic clubs, celebrating Minnesota’s statehood centennial in public festivities. By selling bonds and a variety of volunteer fundraising efforts, the organization purchased the Summit Avenue home for $60,000 in 1965, and refurbished it to suit the needs of a Kulturhaus for social and cultural gatherings.
In the early 1990’s, the club became a non-profit organization and changed its name to the Germanic-American Institute (GAI) to reflect the changing demographics and focus of the organization.
The four-story house, complete with a third-floor ballroom, Ratskeller, and nine fireplaces, was built in 1906 by the George W. Gardner family. It was designed by Thomas Holyoke at a cost of $28,000.
Mr. Gardner passed away in May of 1934 and Mrs. Gardner remained in the family home until her death in 1938. Her son, Truman, then occupied the home until 1948.
The property was purchased in 1948 by the Sisters of St. Benedict and became known as Saint Paul’s Priory. As the religious order grew and needed more space, they eventually moved to Maplewood in 1965. The Volksfest Association then purchased the Haus in 1965 for $57,500 and it has since served as a German cultural center and home of the GAI.