Among all the brick and stone of downtown Minneapolis, the Lutheran Brotherhood must have seemed like a cool drink of fresh water.
Finished in 1956, it was the most modern-looking building downtown, located at Second Avenue and Seventh Street South. First National Bank, designed in the same modernist style, would be constructed a few years later and make Lutheran Brotherhood look like a footstool.
But this eight-story gem always looked more human-scaled than First National’s corporate tower. With its green-glass exterior and rounded corners, it was a holdover from the early ’50s, before the doctrinaire modernists decided everything had to be black with corners creased like an executive’s pant leg. The trees were a nice touch. Aside from the tired old Gateway district, downtown had no green space. Lutheran Brotherhood tenants had access to a courtyard that resembled a swanky backyard — two tiers of flowers and trees, a green lawn, a glider.
If Minneapolis had stagnated, and the company had shrunk, the building might still be there. But Lutheran Brotherhood — now Thrivent — outgrew its home. It built a new HQ across from the Government Center on 4th Avenue S., an odd red slab that looks like an abstracted cash register. Minnegasco occupied the building for a while, and it was demolished in 1997 to make space for the Ameriprise tower.
Now Thrivent has sold its building to Hennepin County, and will move this year to its new building across from the Armory. It’s a crisp, understated building and, like its forebearer, it occupies half the block on the east side, and is eight floors tall.
Makes you wonder whether Lutherans do believe in reincarnation.