Lunchtime Tourist

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February 9, 2004 // UPDATED 2:53 pm - April 24, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

Minneapolis City Hall, part III

Father of Waters statue, 350 S. 5th St., South 4th Street entrance

If you wander into the 4th Street rotunda of City Hall, you can't miss the gigantic "Father of Waters" sculpture. And if you're like many of his visitors, you couldn't resist rubbing his big toe for good luck.

Downtown's largest stone sculpture is a mythical representation of the Mississippi River god: stalks of corn, pine cones, an alligator and starfish illustrate the diversity of life in the river's run from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Father comfortably reclines on a Native American blanket and leans up against a riverboat's paddle wheel.

The chunk of rock he's carved from is reputed to be the largest single block of Carrara marble from the Italian quarry preferred by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

Larkin Goldsmith Mead, Father's sculptor, was born in New Hampshire in 1835. Mead was an illustrator for Harper's Weekly in his early 20s then moved to Italy, where he maintained a studio and taught at the Accademia de Belle Arti in Florence.

This sculpture was originally commissioned by a resident of New Orleans, but when the agreement failed, Mead stopped carving. On a tour of Italy, Minneapolis resident R.D Herrick visited the artist's studio and thought the work in progress was perfect for the new Municipal Building (now City Hall).

After Herrick convinced 12 donors to fund the project as a gift to the city, Mead completed the work and shipped it to Minneapolis, where it was unveiled at a ceremony in 1906. Since that day, 24 mayors have passed by this legendary sculpture.

Bonus tourist tip: Don't miss North Minneapolis resident Herbert Chalker's 41 stone gargoyle faces located around the elevators.

City Hall tours are held the third Wednesday of every month. Meet at noon at the Father of Waters sculpture, or call 673-5301 for more information.

LUNCH TIP: Eddington's in Pillsbury Center, 200 S. 6th St., serves up steaming bowls of soup along with a view of City Hall.

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