Lunchtime Tourist

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October 20, 2003 // UPDATED 11:06 am - April 30, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

A guide to art, architecture and cultural curiosities

Architects & Engineer's Building (now Catholic Charities), 1200 2nd Ave. S.

This 1920 landmark is a four-story Italian palazzo with an Indiana limestone facade. Designed and owned by local architects Hewitt and Brown (who also designed the Loring Office Building, 430 Oak Grove St. and Cathedral Church of St. Mark, 519 Oak Grove St.), it was conceived to be shared office spaces for architects and engineers. Common facilities included a library, reception and conference areas and space for secretarial services.

Like many rooms in the building, The Blue Print Tea Room included painted and carved beams and an elaborate stone fireplace. In an article about the building, Edwin Hewitt wrote that the "adaptation of the Florentine or Tuscan type of design was chosen because it permitted the use of unusual spacing for the windows [which allowed] maximum light in the drafting rooms." Arched windows on the third floor include gold leafed names of architectural superheroes including Viollet le Duc, Filippo Brunelleschi and H.H. Richardson.

The building's first floor contained offices for John Bradstreet's interior design and furniture studio. Considered Minnesota's premier designer in the early 20th century, Bradstreet created the opulent dining rooms in Donaldson's Glass Block department store, formerly on Nicollet and South 7th Street; the recently restored Minneapolis City Council Chamber in City Hall, 350 S. 5th St., and the Duluth arts and crafts extravaganza -- now a period room at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 3rd Ave. S.

A small addition on the building's South 12th Street side housed the Skylight Club. Formed in 1890 as an intellectual and artistic group, club members included writers, publishers, librarians, artists and architects. With no formal bylaws, the club existed to encourage creative pursuits as relief from relentless workdays -- and it still continues today.

Look for iron grapevine grills over basement windows, a graphic relief carving of a winged dragon, an ornate wrought iron bracket and lantern, and a carved stone entryway of interlocking organic forms with figures following creative pursuits.

LUNCH TIP: Try one of the Italian specialties at Staccato, 1150 Marquette Ave.

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