Destruction of the Metropolitan Building

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Winning Nomination

The destruction of the Metropolitan Building in downtown Minneapolis created a national turning point in historic preservation.
~Neil Gustafson, Minneapolis, MN



Runner-up Nominations

Compared to buildings of today, the Northwest Guaranty Loan Building - The Metro - boasted architecturally significant features and not only encompassed a thriving community of businesses, but provided employment for generations of immigrants. Both my grandfather and my great-great-grandfather worked at the Metro as elevator operators and janitors for many years. I for one would love to see an exhibit featuring the Metropolitan Building!
~Mary Lee Griebler, St. Cloud, MN


Contents

History

(1961)

The wrecking ball strikes an architectural gem

"Twin Cities Tear Down the Old to Make Room for the New," proclaimed the Engineering News-Record in 1962. The article was the ninth in a series about urban renewal efforts in American cities, from Los Angeles to Philadelphia to Jacksonville, all of which were rehabilitating aging neighborhoods. "The biggest thing, by far, going on," according to the News-Record, "is the 22-square block redevelopment Minneapolis has named-as did Pittsburgh name its famed redevelopment--Gateway Center. As was Pittsburgh's, this is a bold and progressive venture designed to reshape the image of downtown Minneapolis." When all was said and done, nearly 200 buildings--40 percent of Minneapolis's historic central business district--had been demolished. The area had fallen into disrepair, and the city's solution was to wipe its slate clean and start over.

The most notorious casualty of the city's "bold and progressive venture" was the Metropolitan Building, also known as the Northwest Guaranty Loan Building, a seventy-one-year-old red sandstone monument to Minneapolis's late-nineteenth-century building boom. "The most magnificent office building in the whole round world," according to the Minneapolis Journal, the twelve-story Metropolitan, located at Third Street and Second Avenue South, sported a marble entrance, glass floors, and a remarkable central court fashioned with elaborate iron grillwork.

The Metropolitan Building had its boosters--a group of architects, historians, and others who did their best to spare it from demolition. But it was not to be. The building was considered beyond repair, and the renovation of historic buildings was not yet commonplace. The demolition was, according to architectural historian Larry Millett, "perhaps the most inexcusable act of civic vandalism in the history of Minneapolis."

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