Urban Abendroth: Architect and a gentleman

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 30, 2011 - 10:51 PM

His legacy includes more than 350 Minnesota school buildings, homes and churches, and a family cabin with a glass wall.

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U. L. Abendroth

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Urban L. Abendroth's buildings reflected the way he lived: Elegant, simple, sturdy, efficient.

The architect's legacy lives on in the values he demonstrated and in more than 350 Minnesota school buildings he designed in 31 years as a partner in the St. Louis Park firm Matson, Wegleitner and Abendroth. His passion for design continued after his retirement in 1988 until his death April 24 from several ailments. He was 84.

He had integrity and was dedicated to his craft, said Judy Abendroth, his wife of 59 years.

"If he said he was going to do something, he did it," she said. "You could trust him and know it was solid rock you were dealing with. He never wavered, he never cheated, he never lied. He was just ... well, I think he was the most wonderful man in the world."

A Minneapolis native, Abendroth joined the Navy and later attended the University of Minnesota on the GI Bill, earning a degree in architecture. Shortly after his first job, he opened a firm with Horace Matson and Al Wegleitner. He specialized in Minnesota public school buildings. He was at the forefront of projects in Warroad, Monticello, Big Lake, Osseo, Hibbing, Pipestone and many others.

His wife said that after designing the structures, he often oversaw construction and ensured the buildings were not only beautiful, but efficient for taxpayers -- a value rooted partly in having spent his boyhood in the Great Depression.

"He just wanted a good, solid building for the least amount of money," Judy Abendroth said. "He was always that way."

He designed homes and churches on request, as well as the family's first home and the family cabin on Deer Lake, where the wall facing the water is all glass, reflecting his love of nature and the outdoors.

After retirement, he learned computer-aided design (CAD) and continued to draw and design until last fall, said his daughter Jeanne Derrick, one of the couple's five children

"He'd always say 'It's just my hobby,'" she said.

Another passion was travel. He and his wife saw the world, from the coasts of Mexico to the Taj Mahal to Judy's favorite, the ancient city of Petra in modern-day Jordan, one of the world's most visually stunning archaeological sites.

Although Urban Abendroth is gone, Derrick said, her father's contributions continue. He left "the most incredible plans" for the family's next cabin.

Survivors, besides his wife and Derrick, include sons Mark and Robert; daughters Jo Pihl and Lisa Abendroth; 12 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Services have been held.

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

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