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.

Once a Victorian gem, the massive Harmonia Hall (pictured in 1885) in Minneapolis ended its days as a men’s rooming house.

Massive Harmonia Hall in Minneapolis went from a jewel to a rooming house

The downtown hall, which opened in December 1884, exemplified the busy, colorful Victorian Gothic commercial style.
The new Water Works Park and Pavilion offers a “front porch” on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis

Minneapolis' newest park is like a front porch on the Mississippi River

October 22
Design of Water Works Park and Pavilion achieves simplicity without being simplistic.
The Ames-Lamprey house, as pictured in 1900,  was a Victorian masterpiece that built by a shovel fortune and with a tenuous connection to the 2019 mov

This long-lost St. Paul mansion had a link to 'Knives Out'

October 15
A shovel fortune helped build a mansion that once stood in the shadow of the Minnesota State Capitol.

Why the Twin Cities should save some ugly buildings from the wrecking ball

September 10
Beautiful buildings tend to be the ones that are preserved. Here's why we should save some ugly structures.

Why the old-style Lake Harriet Band Shell remains a perennial favorite

September 3
Despite its traditional design, the Minneapolis band shell is just a few decades old.

Who said Victorians couldn't party? Just look at 1883 bash held in Twin Cities

August 20
To celebrate completion of the northern transcontinental railway, the Twin Cities threw a massive daylong bash.

From a southern Twin Cities lake to a street in St. Paul, this builder threw his name around

July 23
Engineer and real estate developer left his mark – and his name – across the Twin Cities.

What office workers can expect when they return to downtown Minneapolis

June 25
If you're heading back to your office in downtown Minneapolis, expect more than you hoped, less than you feared

The colorful, confusing history of the two 10th Avenue Bridges in Minneapolis

June 16
Minneapolis had two 10th Avenue Bridges: One remains standing, the other left behind rare ruins.

Walker Art Center's iconic brick building, now 50 years old, is aging gracefully

June 4
The Walker Art Center's minimalist, brick-clad building opened 50 years ago. Here's a look back at its roots.

Co-owners of 331 Club, Amsterdam Bar open 'simple' St. Paul bar

May 28
The cozy White Squirrel Bar is the latest addition to a creative-minded St. Paul neighborhood.

Mayo Clinic's carillon bell tower performances now ring on livestream

May 21
The Mayo Clinic's carillon bell tower performances have been a staple for nearly a century.

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?

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.
November 27, 2020
4300 Nicollet Av. S.

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

Walter Norton and Clifford Peel left an extensive collection of commercial photography.
November 21, 2020
This artist’s rendition shows Dollar General’s planned DGX store on the Nicollet Mall.

What does it say about Minneapolis that a dollar store is coming soon to Nicollet Mall?

Dollar General says DGX store at 5th and Nicollet is aimed at "metropolitan" customers.
November 14, 2020
Upton Building

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

The live/work model isn't new. It's as old as the streetcar system in the Twin Cities.
November 7, 2020
The Crocker Roller Skating Rink was eventually swallowed up by a massive furniture store, the New England Furniture Co.

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

Buildings often went through multiple uses in 19th-century Minneapolis. The Crocker-Leland rink was no exception.
October 13, 2020
T3, the first commercial property in the country to use an engineered wood material for its structure and interior, is on N. Washington Avenue.

Following Minneapolis' lead, wood office buildings are popping up nationwide

Developers are turning to wood for its versatility and sustainability.
September 25, 2020
Baker Project 12 4.

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

Ed Baker's drawings and models of past projects give us a glimpse of what might have been.
Home & Garden
September 18, 2020
Bob Roscoe on the porch of his former house on Milwaukee Avenue in south Minneapolis.

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

A grassroots effort fought a plan to raze modest "Joe Sixpack" houses on Milwaukee Avenue that dated to the 1890s.
September 12, 2020
Northwestern Miller at 116-20 S. 6th St.was built in 1898 as the editorial offices and printing plant for Northwestern Miller magazine. Demolition is

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

At least 300 small buildings have disappeared from downtown Minneapolis since 1950. Here's just one worth mourning.
August 29, 2020
RBC and 240 Hennepin.

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

The pandemic hasn't stopped construction in downtown Minneapolis, where the skyline continues to change.
August 25, 2020
The outdoor lunch crowd at Yum! Kitchen and Bakery Wednesday in St. Louis Park.

Outdoor dining has breathed new life into Minnesota restaurants

Because of safety concerns, ease and aesthetics, outdoor dining has caught on in Minnesota.
August 8, 2020
The Frederick E. Murphy Co. was built in 1912.

Twin Cities auto showrooms once were as beautiful as the cars

Back when cars were things of wonder, the showrooms boasted architectural elegance.
July 31, 2020
Fergus Falls is a small town in northern Minnesota with a quaint and walkable downtown area.

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

Minnesota's small-town downtowns have a future, but it won't look like past.
July 24, 2020
James Garrett Jr., Mohammed Lawal and Damaris Hollingsworth are nationally recognized architects.

3 Black architects on how race has shaped our environment in Twin Cities

It's time to take a hard look at who has the power to shape our environment today.
July 7, 2020
Vehicles circled the Minnesota State Capitol, covered with flags and signs, during a May 2 protest against Gov. Tim Walz’s “Stay Home MN” execut

Minnesota's 'front porch,' the State Capitol Mall, is a graveyard of Victorian architecture

Now Minnesota's "front porch," the Capitol Mall was home to mix of Victorian dwellings.
June 19, 2020
A blufftop view of Minnesota’s Great River Road region that runs from Hastings south to the Iowa border

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

A drive along the Great River Road follows the Mississippi from the past to the present.
June 12, 2020
The intersection where George Floyd was arrested has become a safe space for diverse communities to gather to honor him.

With pandemic and protests, Minneapolis streets transcend transportation

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.