South 7th Street & 2nd Avenue
Traveling through Baker Block’s second-level labyrinth, it’s easy to forget you’re actually on an historic piece of property. The Baker Block is actually four separate buildings. The interior design was revolutionary in its plan — all buildings connected on the first through third floors. And tenants could park their cars in the attached ramp and walk directly onto their office floors. A grand shopping arcade cut diagonally through the entire block on the first floor. In 1964, the first skyway was built and connected Baker Block to the Northstar Center.
But if you get out of our skyway system for a day, the Baker Building also has one of Downtown’s most beautiful and historic facades. Designed in 1926 by Larson and McLaren, this 12-story building cost $920,000 to build. In a 1964 Minneapolis Tribune article, Larson said his intention for the building’s exterior was to break up the massiveness of the block with fanciful decor. Molded terra cotta ornamentation covers the exterior. Crests, geometric designs, linear patterns, and 96 women’s faces break up the solid rectangular form. Larson called it “music to the eye.”
Building developer Morris T. Baker was married to the daughter of a quarry owner. Hinkley sandstone, used on the building’s upper floors, came from William Penn’s quarry near Kettle River. And the first floor is faced with distinctive, swirling, Morton gneiss stone from Morton, Minn.
Larson and McLaren went on to design several other Minneapolis office buildings but evolved with the times to simpler and less ornamented buildings. Other projects include the 1947 addition to Marshall Field’s and a 1955 addition and remodel to 510 Marquette (originally a Cass Gilbert building).
LUNCH TIP: For lunch in a similar time period, head downstairs to Peter’s Grill — an Art Deco treasure (114 S. 8th St.).
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