Six historic medallions that once adorned the front of the Star Tribune’s headquarters will be installed on dual Wells Fargo office towers that anchor a $400 million mixed-use development in downtown Minneapolis.
Minneapolis-based Ryan Cos. is developing the Downtown East complex on five blocks once owned by the media company near the new $1 billion Vikings stadium. The Star Tribune building on Portland Avenue S., parts of which date back to 1919, will be demolished next year to make way for a public park.
The imposing limestone medallions have served as the building’s focal point for the past 65 years, with each seal representing principal industries in the Upper Midwest — agriculture, dairy, lumber, milling, mining and tourism. They were carved in place by Ivan Doseff, a University of Minnesota sculptor, when the building was expanded in 1949.
Last December, the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission voted to deny Ryan’s request to demolish the building, but the ruling was overturned by the City Council after Ryan appealed. The council stipulated that Ryan safely remove and store the medallions, and craft a plan for their display within the city limits.
The Star Tribune building will be torn down in 2015 after the newspaper’s headquarters is moved to the Capella Tower complex downtown.
The fate of the medallions, however, remained unclear even as they were chiseled off the building this spring. The raised lettering on the building, which read “Star and Tribune,” was removed from the facing and not saved.
There was talk of displaying the medallions in the public park that is part of the Downtown East development, or installing them at the State Fairgrounds in St. Paul.
State Fair spokeswoman Brienna Schuette said the fair’s foundation inquired about bringing the medallions to the fairgrounds. “They mimic some of the relief art at the State Fair. The [Works Progress Administration] buildings have a similar mode of architecture. We thought it would be a good fit,” she said.
But the plan was never consummated, and the idea was dropped.
Tom Fisher, dean of the University of Minnesota’s College of Design who co-chairs a city committee that is overseeing development of the Downtown East park, said the group “is not really in a place to decide on the medallions.” The committee is still trying to decide how the park, dubbed the Yard, will be managed and operated.
On Tuesday, Ryan announced that the medallions will be placed on the facades of the two 18-story office towers, called Wells Fargo Entry Plaza, at approximately the same height as their previous location on the Star Tribune building. Four of the seals will face the park; the others will face each other beneath a skyway.
The towers are under construction between S. 3rd and 4th streets; employees are to move into the new space in 2015 and 2016.
Mike Ryan, national director of architecture and engineering for Ryan, said in a statement that he was pleased the medallions will remain in the neighborhood, “very close to their original home, to carry on the legacy and history that they represent, including the Star Tribune’s presence in the community.”
Dave Kvamme, CEO for Wells Fargo Minnesota, said the financial services giant intends “to be good stewards for these historical items at the entrances for our new permanent home for 5,000 Wells Fargo” employees.
However, not everyone cheered the medallions’ fate. “Though we are glad to see the medallions preserved, we are disappointed with the plan,” said Mike Kaszuba, co-chairman of the Minnesota Newspaper and Communications Guild, the union representing newsroom employees. “We wish the Star Tribune would have taken more of an interest in preserving its heritage. But because it didn’t, we have this: The newspaper’s history hanging off the side of a bank building.”
Ryan said a placard will be placed on one of the new towers explaining the medallions’ history.