Streetscapes: Celebrating Minnesota architecture

Streetscapes is a column devoted to Minnesota architecture. Writers critique, explore and explain the built environment, from brand-new buildings to revered older ones.


Starting as early as 1919, Minneapolis planners had big ideas for city

Since 1919, Minneapolis Planning Commission has looked to the future.
An artist’s conception of 1967 Minneapolis, post-urban renewal.

In 1957, city leaders thought Minneapolis would be a futuristic city by 1967

April 23
In 1957, city leaders and planners laid out a vision for Minneapolis in 1967. How much of it came true?
With curving streets that defied the standard Minneapolis grid, Oak Lake Park was possibly the first example in the Twin Cities of a “tangletown.”

Near North neighborhood in Minneapolis was once a showcase of Victorian homes

April 16
In its prime, Oak Lake Park featured Victorian residential architecture set amid parks, artificial ponds and tree-lined streets.

Northstar Center, once building of the future, is emblem of Minneapolis' past

April 2
At the time it was built, the Northstar Center embodied the hope of urban vitality.

Demolished 'simple, solid' St. Thomas building was rich in St. Paul history

March 26
Railroad magnate James J. Hill and Archbishop John Ireland asked famed architect Cass Gilbert to design seminary dorm.

Why 'the prettiest church in Minneapolis' fell to the wrecking ball

March 5
The third home of the First Free (also known as Free Will) Baptist Church was a rare gem.

How a Minnesota tax credit has saved historic buildings

February 19
Over the past 10 years, the state's historic tax credit has been applied to more than 100 projects all over Minnesota.

Landscape architect designed Minnesota Zoo and upgraded Minneapolis parkway system

February 12
Roger Bond Martin, a founder of the U's landscape architecture program, emphasized collaboration.

The ballroom that held Buddy Holly's last concert becomes a historic landmark

February 5
But the Surf is historic for more than that fateful concert on a frigid night in 1959.

These 10 projects are the best in Minnesota architecture in 2020

January 1
The best designs were awarded to six firms for 10 commercial, residential, civic, academic and religious projects.

The 1904 Cream of Wheat factory was a rare, classical beauty

December 26, 2020
Built during the City Beautiful movement, the 1904 Cream of Wheat factory was a stunner.

New Mpls. building is one of the city's finest works of contemporary architecture

December 18, 2020
The new Public Service Building in Minneapolis is designed to complement the surrounding buildings.

Vast photo archive of the Twin Cities lets you compare then and now

November 27, 2020
Walter Norton and Clifford Peel left an extensive collection of commercial photography.

Twin Cities work/live buildings have roots in the streetcar era

November 14, 2020
The live/work model isn't new. It's as old as the streetcar system in the Twin Cities.

One of the quirkiest buildings in downtown Minneapolis began as a roller rink

November 7, 2020
Buildings often went through multiple uses in 19th-century Minneapolis. The Crocker-Leland rink was no exception.

8 urban design disasters the Twin Cities avoided

October 23, 2020
Doming Nicollet Mall? Metal trees on Hennepin Avenue? Those are just some of the ill-conceived proposals that fortunately never came to fruition.

Archives of an architecture firm reveal a Minneapolis that was never built

September 25, 2020
Ed Baker's drawings and models of past projects give us a glimpse of what might have been.

1970s Mpls. activists saved Milwaukee Avenue's modest homes from teardown

September 18, 2020
A grassroots effort fought a plan to raze modest "Joe Sixpack" houses on Milwaukee Avenue that dated to the 1890s.

In 1950s, modernizing Minneapolis saw a major loss of modest buildings

September 12, 2020
At least 300 small buildings have disappeared from downtown Minneapolis since 1950. Here's just one worth mourning.

While workers were away: Six new buildings on the Minneapolis skyline

August 29, 2020
The pandemic hasn't stopped construction in downtown Minneapolis, where the skyline continues to change.

Outdoor dining has breathed new life into Minnesota restaurants

August 25, 2020
Because of safety concerns, ease and aesthetics, outdoor dining has caught on in Minnesota.

Twin Cities auto showrooms once were as beautiful as the cars

August 8, 2020
Back when cars were things of wonder, the showrooms boasted architectural elegance.

What's the future of Minnesota's small-town downtowns? Hint: It's not Mayberry

July 31, 2020
Minnesota's small-town downtowns have a future, but it won't look like past.

Minnesota's Great River Road is a lesson in history, ecology and design

June 19, 2020
A drive along the Great River Road follows the Mississippi from the past to the present.

With pandemic and protests, Minneapolis streets transcend transportation

June 12, 2020
How can we facilitate a wider range of uses for our roads?
May 29, 2020
A maintenance worker dusted in a skyway over 3rd Ave. S. in downtown Minneapolis.

Minneapolis' skyways are getting little use now, but they'll eventually be popular again

While they're getting little use now, these essential downtown connectors will eventually come back to life.
May 23, 2020
By the end of this year, Ridgedale will have three major multiunit residential projects right next door.

Key Twin Cities malls are being transformed into town centers

Well-located and managed by savvy owners, a few powerhouse malls continue to evolve and thrive.
May 15, 2020
The Central Lutheran ramp near the Minneapolis Convention Center takes its elegant design cues from the gothic Central Lutheran Church.

Often overlooked, parking ramps reflect Twin Cities history

Advancements in engineering transformed the technology, scale and design of parking structures.
May 9, 2020
Robert Street between 6th and 7th in St. Paul in 1899 before an ambitious project to widen the street began construction in 1913.

The 1913 widening of St. Paul's Robert Street gave the city room to grow

More than 30 buildings, many dating to the 1880s or earlier, had to be torn down or have their front lopped off 20 feet.
May 1, 2020
With most people working from home, the skyways, or “the streets of Minneapolis,” are nearly empty.

Where does Minneapolis seem most deserted? The skyways

City sidewalks aren't the real measure of how vacant Minneapolis is right now.
March 27, 2020
The Kmart store was opened in the 1970s at Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue in south Minneapolis.

How closing Kmart and finally reopening Nicollet Avenue will change Mpls.

Reviving the once-busy thoroughfare can help create a more vibrant, connected city.
March 13, 2020
One of the designs proposed for the outdoor performance venue at the Upper Harbor Terminal site in north Minneapolis.

Why do new plans for Upper Harbor Terminal in Mpls. repeat old mistakes?

Analysis: We need new kinds of development that will eliminate disparities, increase affordability, and generate jobs.
February 28, 2020
Driveway leading to Red Owl loading dock, below Southdale Center parking lot, Edina.

With Kowalski's coming to Southdale, the first U.S. mall gets closer to roots

With the addition of a grocery store, Southdale moves one step closer to its original vision as a community hub.
February 21, 2020
Milton Square in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul is a model for contemporary winter streets and corners.

How the Twin Cities could be designed for winter livability

A few humble street corners show us how to create a "patio culture" year-round.
February 14, 2020
The IDS Center, left, towers over downtown Minneapolis.

Nearly a dozen smaller Minneapolis buildings were razed for the IDS Center. The city's better for it

For many decades, the central core was a great architectural hodgepodge, with many blocks containing buildings in a variety of sizes, shapes and styles.
January 24, 2020
The newly revitalized building has a new name: Arvonne Fraser Library.

In Dinkytown, a 1960s landmark library gets the rebirth it deserves

A 1960s Dinkytown library — by Minnesota Modernist architect Ralph Rapson — gleams anew after an $11.6 million restoration.
Stage & Arts
January 18, 2020
Minneapolis’ tallest building was once the Foshay Tower, foreground, an obelisk.

Think the Minneapolis skyline is unique? Think again – we have copycat buildings in our midst

Some of our landmark buildings aren't so unique. Others are ours alone.
January 3, 2020
The Francis Drake Hotel in Minneapolis (shown circa 1931) opened in 1924 and cost “nearly One-Half Million Dollars.”

In its heyday, Drake Hotel offered Old World allure

Built in 1926, Minneapolis hotel lost to Christmas fire slipped into second-tier status after a decade or two.
Stage & Arts
January 2, 2020
Rothe Amundson cabin

The 7 best projects by Minnesota architects from 2019

The American Institute of Architects Minnesota honored projects ranging from a wayside rest stop to a lakeside cabin to a college arts complex.
December 20, 2019
The 1955 fire at the Willard Apartments, 538 St. Peter Street, St. Paul.

Fires in downtown St. Paul reshaped the cityscape in the 1950s and '60s

Midcentury fires in downtown St. Paul removed many Victorian structures.
December 6, 2019
It's a Victorian Christmas at the Alexander Ramsey House in St. Paul.

St. Paul's historic homes offer tours and stories of Christmases past

Two St. Paul gems, decked out for the holidays, offer a look at Christmases past.
November 29, 2019
Oh, that one: the Public Service Center in Minneapolis.

Public Service Center may not be worth saving, but it's worth remembering

The demolition of the rather ordinary Public Service Center in Minneapolis will leave a gap in the city scape.
November 15, 2019
The Minnehaha Academy Upper School Campus opened on Aug, 19, 2019. The light-filled new buildings y connect the school to its historic grounds and nat

Rebuilt Minnehaha Academy forges connection to past, neighborhood and nature

Two years after a fatal explosion, the design for the rejuvenated campus reaches toward the future.
November 8, 2019
Large historical panoramas hang in the Wells Fargo Bank building’s skyway in Downtown East.

You can learn a lot about Minneapolis history by walking the skyways

Photos, murals and other collections make the skyways into mini-museums.
October 25, 2019
Hampshire Arms, 9th Street and S. 4th Avenue, Minneapolis.

Affordable housing was once a staple of our downtowns. Here's what happened

Residential hotels and rooming houses in Minneapolis and St. Paul offered alternatives to houses and apartments.
October 7, 2019
Take a photo tour of Mpls. in 1907 with astonishing, interactive panorama

Take a photo tour of Mpls. in 1907 with astonishing, interactive panorama

A panoramic photo of the city taken on a large-format camera in 1907 offers an incredible time capsule. "It reveals things that essentially nobody ever saw before. It's so immersive."
September 27, 2019
The residence of John E. Bell at 24th Street and Park Avenue in Minneapolis. Bell was a merchant, wholesaler and banker.

This 1885 Park Avenue mansion was the queen of the Queen Annes

With its balconies, porches, dormers and gingerbread trim, this Park Avenue mansion in Minneapolis was the giddiest of them all.
August 23, 2019
Passengers navigated a crowded subway platform in New York City.

The Twin Cities didn't get a subway in the 1900s, and here's why

In the early 1900s, there was talk of building one. It would have put its mark on the metro.
Stage & Arts
August 17, 2019
A fire destroyed St. Olaf’s Catholic Church in Minneapolis in 1953.

Elegant Gothic church dominated Minneapolis skyline — until it burned a second time

An iconic sanctuary survived an 1888 fire and a 1904 tornado only to burn down years later.
Stage & Arts
August 9, 2019
The fountains at the renovated Peavey Plaza in downtown Minneapolis flowed over the reflecting pool.

$10 million later, the renovated Peavey Plaza is an accessible success

A renovation has restored the downtown gem's singular looks while making it accessible to all.