The oldest White Castle building in Minneapolis will remain standing, along with another of West Broadway Avenue's few historical storefronts, but it did not win historic designation in a City Hall preservation fight.
The Kemps ice cream company had proposed knocking down the 1927 White Castle and neighboring 1897 International Order of Odd Fellows' Hennepin Lodge No. 4 to create a parking lot. The buildings, both owned by neighboring Kemps, are among the few remaining properties dating to West Broadway's heyday as the North Side's thriving commercial spine.
A paint protest in 2014 aimed to inspire reuse of the buildings, adorning windows with images of customers in an ice cream shop. The painting was later erased.
City Council Member Blong Yang nominated both buildings for historic designation. After extensive review, the Council on Friday affirmed a preservation board's recommendation to designate the Odd Fellows building but not the White Castle.
"While several interesting elements of the original [White Castle] building are still present, the building's integrity has been altered in such a way that it may no longer be able to convey its architectural significance," the designation study said.
That left the White Castle building unprotected from demolition, but Kemps Senior Vice President Rachel Kyllo indicated this month that plans have changed. "There are no plans to demolish in the near future," Kyllo wrote in an e-mail.
The White Castle building was built six years after the company was established, during its first expansion into the Twin Cities. It is one of the last surviving white enamel brick White Castle buildings in the country, and the last in Minneapolis. Another historic White Castle on Lyndale Avenue is made largely from porcelain and steel.
But as a condition of the building's sale in the 1940s, its castle-like tower and battlements were removed, erasing much of its signature look. It has been vacant for years, and Kemps officials have said the buildings are in bad shape.
The other building, at 404 W. Broadway, was an Odd Fellows lodge for more than 80 years. The designation study explained that the Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization, were pioneers of social welfare and women's rights. It was last used as a grocery store.
At Friday's council meeting, Yang said he was disappointed the White Castle building wasn't designated as historic. "It might be on its last leg, but it still has a leg," he said.