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Despite Renovation, Minneapolis' Foshay Tower Holds onto...

Despite Renovation, Minneapolis' Foshay Tower Holds onto its Historical Roots

Have you ever watched helplessly as a space that you loved was renovated, ultimately preventing you from re-experiencing memories which have taken place there before? Most of us have. Many people were concerned that one of the American Midwest’s most beloved buildings would experience this same fate when its extensive renovation was announced. In late

The Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota rises 447 above the streets with an antenna spire lifting its total height to 607 feet. Though it is currently dwarfed by other buildings in the skyline of Minneapolis, it remains as one of the most beautiful and once was one of the tallest in the world.

Have you ever watched helplessly as a space that you loved was renovated, ultimately preventing you from re-experiencing memories which have taken place there before? Most of us have. Many people were concerned that one of the American Midwest’s most beloved buildings would experience this same fate when its extensive renovation was announced. In late 2006, it was announced that the Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis would be renovated from its original purpose as an office tower into The W Hotel.

The building is truly one of the United States’ architectural treasures and when construction began in 1926 it would be one of the tallest planned buildings in the country. Its art deco design closely resembles that of the Washington Monument in Washington DC, with the largest visual difference being the windows penetrating the façade of the Foshay. It remains as one of the tallest obelisk- shaped buildings in the United States to this day, with each floor being slightly smaller than the floor below it, with the building eventually tapering to a point. The official roof height of the Foshay is 447 feet, with the antenna mast raising its total height to 607 feet (the mast was not a part of the building’s original design). The tower sits back from the side of the street, sitting upon a two-story square-shaped building that serves as the Foshay’s entrance and primary lobby space.

In the lower portion of the photograph you can see the entryway into the Foshay Tower in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The tower rises up and out of the frame on the left, while the entirety of the building can be seen in the reflection of the blue glass facade of the Campbell Mithun Tower on the right.

When the renovation was announced, it received a mixed response from the public. On one hand, there was the idea that a prominent renovation would re-solidify the building as an icon in the city. On the other end of the spectrum, many were concerned that the cherished building would be renovated so extensively that it would lose much of its historic aspects. The building has been a member of the National Register for Historic Places since 1978, adding to the building’s worth as a historic icon.

The top floor of the Foshay Tower in Minneapolis, Minnesota is home to an enclosed, outdoor observation deck. On each corner there are viewfinders to zoom in on the surrounding landmarks. Here, you can see the Capella Tower rising above the Foshay amid the city landscape.

Thankfully, the designers for the renovation (completed in the Fall of 2008) would focus intensively on keeping the building close to its original form. The exterior went visually untouched, with the top floor observation deck and museum remaining open and accessible to the public. Many characteristics of the interior were kept as well, including some detailing and engraving, especially in high-traffic areas such as the main lobby. Though it has definitely been “modernized,” the building stays close to its original roots and the vision which Wilbur Foshay – the building’s designer – had envisioned, despite being used for a completely different purpose. It is fantastic to see a renovation protect a historic piece of architecture so beautifully, as that is something that is not seen nearly enough today.

What are your thoughts on renovating a historic building and altering its original purpose? Do you have any examples of historical renovations in your community? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.

Credits: Images by Wyatt Prosch. Data Linked to sources.

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Wyatt Prosch is currently a student at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities pursuing a degree in the Bachelor of Design in Architecture. Born and raised in Minnesota, his passion for architecture has been encouraged by the incredible design of th...

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