Wells Fargo Tower: Between South 6th & 7th streets on Marquette

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September 6, 2004 // UPDATED 4:00 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

Considered by many to be the skyline's prettiest building, Wells Fargo's tower rose from the ashes of a devastating Thanksgiving Day fire in 1982.

Wells Fargo, previously known as Norwest, and known before that as Northwestern National Bank, was the second bank in Minneapolis. Founded in 1872, its first president was Dorilus Morrison, who also happened to be the first mayor of Minneapolis. By 1998, it acquired enough smaller banks to reign in California's Wells Fargo.

But back to that chilly November day in 1982. The 1929 bank building burst into flames. As firefighters doused its 16-story walls, the building turned frosty white and looked like a frozen fountain.

Not much of the bank remained; however, carved balustrades, decorative medallions and six large chandeliers were pulled from the wreckage to be incorporated into a new building.

For three years, the block sat vacant while architects at Cesar Pelli and Associates, in New Haven, Conn. worked at their drawing boards and oversaw construction.

Born in Argentina, Cesar Pelli is known as an architect who responds to a particular site rather than pushing a style of his own. His firm's projects have won over 100 design awards and have been featured in major museum exhibits.

In 1991, Pelli was selected by the American Institute of Architects as one of the 10 most influential living American architects.

When the building opened, New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger said Pelli created "a tower that has the emotional presence of the great skyscrapers of the 1920s and '30s, without indulging in literal reproduction."

The Wells Fargo tower is 57 stories tall, but 30 inches shorter than the IDS on 80 S. 8th St. It cost $100 million to build and opened in 1989.

Don't miss the changing decorative arts exhibits on the first two floors; the rotating display features pieces from an astounding collection now owned by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts that were originally Norwest's corporate collection.

LUNCH TIP: For a lunchtime view of the building, choose a window seat at Marq VII Lounge across South 7th Street.

Please send your tips to thelunchtimetourist@hotmail.com.