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Continued: Flanagan Memo: Wilbur Foshay would be proud of his tower

  • Article by: BARBARA FLANAGAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 3, 2008 - 11:12 PM

The former mayor of Bogota, Colombia, a man named Enrique Peñalosa, was interviewed by the New York Times about cities recently, and he said a couple of things I think are important. One: "When you construct a good city sidewalk, you are constructing democracy. A sidewalk is a symbol of equality.'' And this: "We are building much more for cars' mobility than children's happiness.'' Hear, hear!

Perhaps Minneapolis, St. Paul and the metro area should pay heed. More sidewalks are necessary here.

Fabulous Foshay

OK, friends, it is time to salute the Foshay!

Oh, yes, this month our historic Foshay Tower becomes a W hotel. It opens Aug. 13.

It is a thrill to realize that the Foshay, all 32 stories of it, is being preserved -- and nicely, nicely. Ralph Burnet, the real estate mogul, is the man to thank.

Let me tell you about the Foshay, my Foshay I say, because it was the tallest building in my life when I arrived here from Des Moines. When I first saw it some 50 years ago, I was both delighted and stunned.

Now, I never knew the late Wilbur Foshay, a former art student turned utility investor, but his idea to put up a building resembling the Washington Monument was a darb. Nobody else did it and to this day, it stands at 9th and Marquette looking good.

My memories of the Foshay include that first trip to the observation deck and its view of the surrounding rooftops; parties in Foshay's handsome office space given by Bill Horn, one of its tenants, and his wife, Nancy; dining at café un deux trois and, more recently, Keys Cafe. I also enjoyed just walking through the main lobby. Foshay had hired the best and it was well done.

So now it is again. The lobby has been refurbished or really, just polished, and the false ceiling has been removed revealing the spectacular plaster ceiling. It is ornate and even matches the original paint colors.

The hotel "living room" opens just inside the front door and it includes loads of comfortable seating including double-chairs just fit for two. They should prove popular. There is also a bar and a big door that leads to Manny's, Minneapolis' well-known steakhouse. It has moved from the Hyatt Hotel and is now located on the ground floor at the 9th Street corner.

Going back to the lobby, if you walk straight ahead, you come to the reception desk, a wowser of bright and colorful lights. As you sign in, the lights keep changing color.

There are 230 guest rooms in the Foshay, which, by the way, is the latest five-star W. Hotel, a part of the W Hotels Worldwide chain. There are W hotels everywhere nowadays.

May I add that there are two WOW suites (one known as "extreme'') a 27th floor skybar, also with a great view, a Technogym, a pet-friendly PAW (pets are welcome) program, a 24-hour concierge, and believe it or not, a Foshay Tower museum.

Wilbur Foshay's office is almost as it was in his day, with the paneled walls and tall windows opening to small balconies. You can rent it for a party.

In 1929, when Foshay opened his building, John Philip Sousa and his band played a new composition by Sousa titled "The Foshay Tower March." The $20,000 fee Sousa never received made history. Foshay's utility empire collapsed just six weeks after the opening celebration and his check to Sousa bounced. In retaliation, the composer forbade the march from being played. Finally, in 1999, some devoted Minneapolitans paid the debt to the Sousa estate. The march can now be played if hotelgoers want to hear it.

For those of you who ask if those sculptures Foshay commissioned Harriet Frishmuth to create will be there, the answer is "No.'' One, that used to grace the front of the former Charlie's Cafe Exceptionale restaurant, was sold to the late Bob Short. He also acquired the second sculpture and both are in the Short home.

Now Sousa won't be among the VIPs checking in next week, but the hotel is booked solid, I'm told. And when the GOP stages its national convention in September, "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart is one of the names scheduled for the hotel.

If you are interested, a double room starts at $400. Just FYI.

No hats, please

What a joy to know that some local high schools are banning kids from wearing hats inside the school. Hooray! Now if they can persuade their dads not to wear their caps at the dinner table when eating out.

Dancing with Olympians

Jerome Cubbage, a high school buddy, sent me a copy of the Wall Street Journal's article on the possibility of ballroom dancing as an Olympic event and added a question: "Tap dancing next?'' Well, why not? I am for ballroom dancing at the Olympic Games and think tap dancing would be an added wonder. Thanks, Jerome.

Mrs. Cunningham

The Walk of Fame was kicked off on July 28 with the first star saluting a movie personality. Marion Ross, originally of Albert Lea, Minn., was the first star. Coming up this month are events honoring Tippi Hedren on Aug. 12 and Loni Anderson on Aug. 19. All of the stars will be placed in downtown Hennepin Avenue sidewalks.

It's a good start, but we have many more to honor. Judy Garland tops my list.

Barbara Flanagan, longtime columnist for the Star Tribune, writes on the first Monday of each month. Her interests are the metro area -- what's good and what's bad -- and the fascinating people who live here. She can be contacted at barb-flanagan@comcast.net.

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