I have no idea why this site is necessary. When I started it in 1997 or so, there wasn’t much on the web about downtown architecture, or the history of individual buildings. Since then almost every building has a wikipedia page; Google Street View offers a look at every corner; good photographers have posted innumerable sets on Flickr to show the buildings at their best. The appetite for old video-grabs of the rise of the service core of a building that’s been standing for a decade and a half would seem to be small.

But once you put something up, you ought to prune it, water it, add something now and then. Over the years I’ve redone this site four times, including a gruesome and ill-considered change in 2013 that made me wince even when I was overhauling it. This has been cured. Every page is new.

The reason for the site is simple, really: I love this place. Even though they’ve torn down too much. Even though the new buildings can be bland and vague. Growing up in Fargo, this was also the Big City, the place I wanted to be. It’s not my favorite downtown, but it’s my downtown.

If you live here, you might find some interesting history. If you don’t, you’ll get to know some small details you’ll find nowhere else in the world. Be advised that this page is just a part of the Minneapolis section - the LONG GONE site is the real soul, I suppose, an elegy to the great old city that was struck down for Progress.

But it’s not all gone. The picture above is proof: an old elegant cornice competing with glass and Kasota stone, holding its own, finding new purpose: as many new apartments rise downtown, as people come to the city to live like never before, the old buildings are turned to new purposes, and thrive.

Enjoy the tour, and come back now and then. There are many more places to add. It’s never finished, but what city is?

 

Lileks
03.10.14

 

Masonic Temple

A big old pile of rock writhing with all sorts of peculiar Masonic carvings.

City Hall

Elevator grotesques and a rare tour of the clock tower.

Plymouth

Most people don't know what this behemoth once looked like. Now you will.

Grain Exchange

Interior and exterior shots of great Louis-Sullivan-style ornamentation.

Andrus Building

Somehow, this one survived.

Advance - Thresher

Two buildings in one - with incredible ornamentation.

Rand Tower

A classic late-20s skyscraper.

Lumber Exchange

Little or no lumber is actually exchanged nowadays. But it's worth a visit anyway.

Baker Building

Just a modest 1920s commercial block, now overwhelmed by all its neighbors.

Pence

The details on this 20s office block reveal a few strange motifs.

Club Row

The old men's clubs still stand, but they have new neighbors. Big neighbors.

First National / Soo Line

From the great age of Filedrawer Skyscrapers.

Medical Arts

Come for the terra-cotta, stay for the dentist's appointment!

The Federal Reserve

Poor thing.

The Bus Station

Another sleek Moderne building, also known as the nightclub from Prince's "Purple Rain."


NWest Bell

1930s skyscraper full of Moderne ornamentation.

The Armory

WPA project full of decayed beauty.

Dayton's

The fine old store.

Foshay

The city's beloved old obelisk skyscraper.

Post Office

A severe WPA-era building.

Witt

The tallest downtown grocery store.

 

 
 
 

F & M

A forties building with a 50s annex.

Public Library

The new one, the old new one, and the old old one.

Midwest Federal

The Mary Tyler Moore Building!

First National Bank

Every city has one.

 

 

Dain Tower (RBC)

A basic 80s glass slab, but I like it.

City Center

God help us.

50 S. 6th street

The last office tower downtown?

Amerprise

Tallest building constructed in the US in 2000!

US Bank

Also known as the Halo-topped building.

Accenture

Formerly the Lincoln. Half a twin.

 

Conservatory

A gigantic downtown mall that died, and died hard.

Lutheran Brotherhood

The modernist jewelbox.

Augsburg

Cool, in an old non-cool sort of way. Demolished, but there's a happy ending.

Doctors and Professionals

Swank Perry-Mason-era cool.

Thorpe

Lost in the 90s.

Physicians & Surgeons

Another solid citizen sacrificed for progress.

Block E

We'd prefer the scum to failure.

 

Long Gone

U of M

Minneapolis Modern

Lileks.com