Lou Welter felt destined to live at 2615 Park Av. S., an elegant brick building near downtown Minneapolis.
“My maiden name is Tiffany,” she said, citing the iconic New York jewelry store. “So I felt like I should be living in a place that reminded me of New York.”
The well-preserved lobby is rich with character, resembling something out of an old Cary Grant movie. Welter was awestruck by the mahogany paneled walls complemented by terrazzo and Italian marble floors. Art Deco etched-glass light fixtures illuminate ornately carved antique tables and other furnishings that were there when the luxury apartment building first opened more than 80 years ago. The wood-paneled elevators still have the accordion doors encased in glass.
In 1986, Welter, then a young finance professional, bought a small unit on the second floor and has lived at 2615 Park ever since. The first time her husband, Jim Welter, came to pick her up for a date, “I fell in love with the building right from the start,” he said. “It’s like a grand old dame.”
The six-story luxury apartment-hotel opened in 1930 across from the American Swedish Institute on prestigious Park Avenue, which was lined with stately mansions inhabited by the state’s movers and shakers.
2615 Park still has the aura of a bygone era of switchboard operators, chauffeurs and an on-site beauty salon. Enamored residents have even written books detailing its history and colorful cast of renters.
In 1947, the rental apartments were converted into a cooperative, and today there are several units for sale, ranging from $35,000 for studios to $169,000 for renovated two-bedrooms, said Larry Moore, property manager. The 112-unit co-op attracts buyers for its stylish sophistication as well as the security it offers with an attached garage and 24-hour attendant.
Mary Jo Thorsheim, an owner since 1991, remembers driving past the building on the way to church and family brunches in Loretta’s Tea Room when she was a teen.
“It looked big-city — like what you’d see in New York,” she said. “I loved the architectural details and was curious about the history.” After many years of dogged research, she completed a self-published book, “Biography of a Building: The Personalities of 2615 Park Avenue,” in 2008. Her book investigates whether aviator Ameila Earhart ever lived in apartment 612 (the rumor can’t be verified, but Thorsheim believes it is true). One of her favorite stories is about Dr. Solveig Bergh and movie theater mogul Ted Mann, whose adjacent units faced a courtyard. “On summer days, Dr. Berg could see Ted Mann with his feet up on the desk, smoking a cigar and making deals.”
For decades, most cooperative residents were retirees, but now young professionals who work in downtown Minneapolis and at nearby Abbott Northwestern Hospital, and those who wish to be close to bike trails and lakes, are snapping up units vacated when their elderly owners have died.
“I was super-impressed when I walked in,” said Becca Bejoch, who works in public relations. “I’m really into Art Deco.”
Bejoch rents an 800-square-foot, one-bedroom unit she’s decorating in a Hollywood Regency style. She calls 2615 Park Avenue Minneapolis’ best-kept housing secret. “I love showing people the glam lobby and fancy elevator,” she said. “The garage still has the cubbies where chauffeurs kept their hats and gloves.”