A Dash of History: Forepaugh’s Recipe for Walleye Pike Fillet and Mansion House Potatoes
With the closing of Forepaugh’s Restaurant earlier this month, I thought I would share a couple of recipes from them. The restaurant was housed in a mansion situated on the western corner of St. Paul’s stately Irvine Park. The mansion was built in 1870 for 36-year-old Joseph Forepaugh and his family. After arriving in St. Paul in 1858, Forepaugh opened a dry goods store. J.L. Forepaugh and Company grew to become one of the largest stores of its kind in the upper midwest. The company was grossing more than a half million dollars in annual sales by 1865. After just ten years of work, Forepaugh retired.
The Irvine Park neighborhood began to lose its luster by the late 1880s. In 1886, Forepaugh auctioned off all of the elegant furnishings left in the home and sold the mansion. The family only took their personal belongings with them.
Forepaugh, his wife Mary, and their five children spent time in Europe. Newspaper reports suggest the trip was taken so Forepaugh could get help for depression, an illness that he struggled with most of his entire life. He returned to St. Paul with renewed energy and ready to take on the next phase of his life.
In 1889, construction began on a grand new home for the Forepaugh family at 302 Summit Avenue. The family moved into the new mansion in 1891. On July 8, 1892, Forepaugh’s granddaughter saw him climb onto a streetcar on Selby Avenue traveling west. He was never seen alive again. His body was found two days later on Selby Avenue near Hamline. He died by suicide.
Civil War veteran General John Henry Hammond purchased the Irvine Park mansion from the Forepaughs in 1886. He lived in the home until his death in 1890. The mansion stayed in the Hammond family for many years. It was eventually divided into several units and used as a boarding house and low-income apartments until the 1970s. By 1972 was in such a state of disrepair that it was considered for demolition. Thankfully, a private company purchased it in 1976. They gutted the home and refurbished into a restaurant.
In 2007, Bruce Taher purchased the restaurant and invested $2 million to renovate and reinvent the mansion restaurant into a white-tablecloth establishment. After 11 years of running the restaurant, Taher closed Forepaugh’s in March 2019.
Forepaugh’s Walleye Pike Fillet a la Rich
1 ⅓ cups butter
5 cups fresh bread crumbs
¼ cup finely diced onion
Pinch of dill
Juice of ¼ lemon
1 clove garlic
Salt to taste
8 good size walleye pike fillets
Pre-heat oven to 350°.
Soften butter and mix with bread crumbs, onion, dill, lemon, garlic, and salt using a wire whisk. Spread topping over fillets in a large baking pan. (A little water may be added to the pan to keep fish from sticking)
Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Forepaugh’s Mansion House Potatoes
3 lb. potatoes
4 oz. fresh parsley, chopped (about ½ cup)
Salt, pepper, nutmeg, and thyme to taste
4 oz. butter, melted
Pre-heat oven to 350°.
Peel potatoes and cut into 2-inch cubes. Spread out onto a baking sheet and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and thyme. Pour melted butter over potatoes.
Bake 20 to 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. Potatoes are done when soft and slightly brown.