A Landmark destination

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January 15, 2013
By: Linda Koutsky
The Gallery of Wood Art at the Landmark Center.
By Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

My friend Marcia and I planned a Sunday afternoon outing in “the other city.” We crossed the great divide of the Mississippi River and descended into Lowertown but were surprised to see our destination closed — I was sure I checked the website. Sitting in our freezing car we brainstormed options for the sub-zero day. “Let’s see what’s inside Landmark Center these days,” she said. After circling twice around Rice Park we found a parking place. What a delight! As we entered St. Paul’s towering brownstone castle tango dancers swirled around us and a woman greeted us with “Welcome to Argentina!”

Built in 1902 as the Federal Court House and Post Office, the building cost $2.5 million, including furnishings. And those furnishings are gorgeous! The Romanesque Chateau exterior is a mountain of carved St. Cloud granite and inside hardly a surface remains untouched: delicate moldings, beautiful arches, ornate columns, and marble wainscoting all topped with a ceiling of skylights above the four-story cortile. Offices and courtrooms, that once were the site of famous gangster trials like Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, now are homes to arts and cultural organizations. Though the building risked demolition in 1969, today it’s a thriving hub of activity. Several resident organizations are open to the public; concerts are held regularly, both in the cortile and in courtrooms; and the building hosts numerous events including Sunday at Landmark, a series of concerts, hands-on activities for kids, and spotlights on different counties of the world. 

Upcoming events:

•  through Feb. 2 — St. Paul Winter Carnival exhibits and programs.

•  Feb. 3 — Urban Expedition: the Netherlands. 1–3 p.m. Free crafts, performances, and more.

•  Feb. 10 — Skylark Opera Concert, 1 p.m., free.

•  Feb. 14 — Cocktails with Culture, second floor; 5–7 p.m.; cash bar, musical performances and woodturning demos.

•  Feb. 16–17 — A Scottish Ramble, $5 adults, $3 kids/seniors. The largest indoor Scottish Festival in the Midwest. For more information visit scottishramble.org.

•  March 3 — Rose Ensemble Concert, 4 p.m., free

•  March 10 — Urban Expedition: Armenia. 1–3 p.m. Free crafts, performances, and more.

THE GALLERY OF WOOD ART — Fabulous exhibits showcase vases, bowls, candlesticks, sculpture, and spoons made of bog oak, wormy ash, American holly, palm, or more traditional woods by members of this international organization. Giftshop, demos, and classes too. (Open Tuesday–Friday, 11 a.m.–4 p.m.; Sunday, noon–3 p.m.; galleryofwoodart.org; free).

THE SCHUBERT CLUB MUSEUM — Learn about the history of musical instruments and actually play a piano once played by Liszt, Mahler, Brahms, and Bartok. Read original letters written by Sibelius, Mozart, Beethoven, Revel, and others. Lots on hand-on activities for kids. (Open Sunday–Friday, noon–4 p.m.; schubert.org/museum; free)

RAMSEY COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY — Changing exhibits on first and lower floors, open during building hours, free.

LANDMARK CENTER — Free building tours Thursdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at noon. For upcoming events visit landmarkcenter.org.

DESSERT BREAK: You can’t go wrong with Irish coffee and a dessert at the St. paul Hotel (350 Market Street)

For more diversions, follow the Weekend Tourist on Twitter (@WeekendTourist)