Lunchtime Tourist

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February 2, 2004 // UPDATED 2:46 pm - April 24, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

Minneapolis City Hall, part II, Rotunda stained-glass windows, 350 S. 5th St., South 4th Street entrance

While most people think the main entrance to City Hall is the south side (facing Government Center's plaza), it's actually the South 4th Street-facing rotunda. Recently, after 100 years of accumulated tobacco smoke and grime, the most impressive space in the building has been restored to its glory.

Carrara marble from the famous Italian quarry preferred by Michelangelo covers the rotunda's floors, stairs, walls and enormous Father of Waters statue. The 94-foot-high ceiling features an octagonal glass skylight. Glowing stained-glass windows surround the entire space.

The city placed a call for bids on fabricating the windows and turned down the firm who worked for Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as Tiffany Studios. A local glass company, Ford Brothers, was awarded the job and paid $5 a square foot -- not much money for 100 colors of glass!

The window designs are a combination of Neo-Classical motifs and organic elements typical of the Arts and Crafts movement. The central window shows three female figures possibly representing Justice, Peace and Freedom, and is considered the Ford Brother's finest work. On either side are scenes of the Stone Arch Bridge with City Hall's clock tower and Minnehaha Falls.

A century can be rough on almost anything, but these windows were in bad shape. The effects of gravity caused the lead between the glass pieces to loosen and sag. Over 70,000 pieces of glass were removed; shipped to Iowa, where they were soaked in cleaning fluid tanks and repaired; and then reassembled last fall. The $1 million restoration also includes new light boxes for the windows on the left side that should be functional by March.

This luminescent space is a must-see for Downtowners. Tour brochures are available at the information desk, and don't miss the great view from the 4th floor.

LUNCH TIP: Cross the street for grilled specialties with a view at the Federal Cafe, 300 S. 4th St.

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