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For more than four decades, Carousel twirled its way into the hearts of downtown St. Paul diners. Literally. This lazy Susan of a restaurant was one of those peculiar midcentury curiosities, a round platform, tucked under the rectangular roof of the city’s tallest hotel, that revolved as it offered diners panoramic Mississippi River valley vistas from its floor-to-ceiling windows.
The movement was almost imperceptible — a single revolution elapsed over 45 minutes, although in its final years the machinery was known to lurch and rumble. For added drama, the restaurant was accessed from the lobby via a showy glass elevator ride, an über-luxury touch on what was already the most expensive building (its budget approached $100 million in 2013 dollars) in the city’s 1960s-era urban renewal effort.
The 22-story hotel was originally a Hilton, later a Radisson, and now flies the Crowne Plaza flag. Carousel sputtered to a close in 2007 — the indifferent, overpriced fare and threadbare surroundings were probably a factor — and was replaced by Windows on the River, a private event space.
Today’s version: The kitsch-fest that is JJ Astor Restaurant (505 W. Superior St., Duluth, 218-722-8439, www.jjastorrestaurant.com), which is perched on the top of another 1960s oddity, Duluth’s 16-story Radisson Harborview Hotel. It can’t be a coincidence that both hotels were designed by the same New York City architect.
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