Lunchtime Tourist

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January 26, 2004 // UPDATED 2:39 pm - April 24, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

Renovate rotunda

Minneapolis City Hall, 350 S. 5th St.

I've been saving this one for a special occasion. Now that the rotunda's restoration is complete, this seems like a good time to recognize Downtown's most important civic landmark. This will be a multiweek look at the architecture, art and culture of today's City Hall building.

When our fair town was a quickly growing metropolis in the late 19th century, city leaders outgrew their cramped quarters facing the river at Bridge Square. Distinguished local architects Long & Kees (Flour Exchange, 310 4th Ave. S.; Lumber Exchange, 10 S. 5th St. and Hennepin Center for the Arts, 528 Hennepin Ave. S.) were hired to design a new symbol for the city.

For inspiration, they looked toward the country's preeminent architect Henry Hobson Richardson who had just completed Trinity Church in Boston (1877) and Pittsburgh's Allegheny County Courthouse (1888). The style of the architect's massive stone buildings featuring arched masonry patterns and window openings that came to be known as Richardsonian Romanesque.

Originally called the Municipal Building, City Hall was designed and built between 1888 and 1905 on the site of the first public schoolhouse west of the Mississippi River. City offices were on one side of the building with county offices on the other. Extra space in the building was rented out for a blacksmith shop, horse stable, wool brokerage and a chicken hatchery.

Built of Ortonville, Minn. granite, the structure cost a whopping $3.5 million. The 345-foot clock tower dominated the skyline until the 1920s. The clock faces were reputed to be the largest in the world when built -- 23 feet, 4 inches in diameter. The minute hand is 14 feet long and weighs 350 pounds.

Downtown's beloved Richardsonian Romanesque building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

To see the inside of City Hall's clock tower, visit mplib.org/history/cg3.asp. For photos of the Allegheny County Courthouse, go to bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/ fa267/hhr_allegheny.html.

LUNCH TIP: For lunch with a view of City Hall, go to the Atlas Grill in Pillsbury Center.

Send your tips to thelunchtimetourist@hotmail.com.