Wilbur Foshay's name still burns in the sky every night, stamped on all four sides of his curious skyscraper. Imagine his pride the first night they fired up the lights and he saw his name hanging over the town; he might have been humming the march he'd had commissioned for the opening day - a Sousa march! Not just anyone got John Phillip Sousa to write a march in his honor. Not just anyone built the tallest building in town.

A year later the march was forgotten; the building was sold to creditors, and Foshay was in jail. Some sort of murky securities fraud. His utilities empire was lost in the crash, but his building was the tallest spire in town until the IDS center dethroned it in the early 70s. Not a bad run.

Elevator doorIt's a plain structure, modeled after the Washington Monument. It sits on a two-story base, which robs you of the satisfaction of seeing the tower touch the ground - it just disappears behind storefronts, a redwood without roots. For years this was where you took the yokels to see the glories of the big town - the observation deck gave you windblown views of Minneapolis and beyond. But the building itself became slightly seedy, tired, worn. The statue from the courtyard - a flighty nymph named Scherzo - was relocated to the famed Charlie's Cafe Exceptionale. (Since closed, and replaced by Helmut Jahn's silly 401 Building.) The lights behind Wilbur's name burned out.

But the building never lost its odd role in the locals' hearts, even after it was eclipsed by newer, bigger towers. Everybody remembered goggling at the view from the roof as a kid; everybody had a warm spot for the strange beige spire. When yellow ribbons were in vogue for the hostages, a giant ribbon was tied around the tower's top. When a radio station had an anniversary, its call letters were spelled out at night in illuminated windows. At Christmas four strands of lights hung from its top like guy wires on a transmission tower. Privately owned, but publicly loved, like a charming old neighborhood dog of uncertain parentage.

NEXT: a big whomping postcard.

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