The older Foshay once dominated the Minneapolis skyline. Now it is obscured by newer, taller buildings.
Today we went to see the old Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis on a crystal-clear September day. We got some museum passes at the Washington County Library (4 free!) and took advantage of the free downtown weekend parking.
The old Foshay was built in 1929 as an homage to the Washington Monument which is itself modeled after granite obelisks in Luxor, Egypt. I would say the Foshay is ‘inspired’ by the two other obelisks because it really doesn’t look like them. (And one could say the Foshay influenced the ‘Doctor Who’ costume designers — the Foshay looks like a giant Dalek.).
The building is a historical monument, so the W Hotel, its latest occupant, took pains to restore the Art Deco ornamentation in the interior and avoided modifying the exterior facade in any way. The elevators are exquisitely detailed in brass artwork. The lobby ceiling has been restored as well. No dancing nymphs from 1929 to be found; the W makes sure you know you are in a trendy hotel with pink neon lighting and blue glass sparkles. Yet the combination of old and new work beautifully. Art Deco is elegance — the W prudently embraced it with their own, modern elan.
The Foshay was the tallest midwestern building outside of Chicago for many years. It was a point of pride for Minneapolitans decades after it was built, and though it was superceded by the taller IDS tower in the 70’s, it still is beloved by its people.
The building still bears the name of its creator, Wilbur Foshay. Although he hoped otherwise, few people today know who the egotistical Foshay is.
In the distance you can see downtown St. Paul. The IDS tower and the Wells Fargo Building are much taller than the Foshay. Each corner is labeled for the compass point it faces.
There is a very narrow observation deck around the top of the building. I am troubled by heights, so it took me a while to walk around the deck. I kept my back to the wall at all times.
We could see all the way to downtown St. Paul, the Minneapolis lakes and the grassed top of the downtown Target Center.
At each corner (N, E, S, W) there is a free telescope to see into the horizon. The day was so clear, we had no trouble seeing fifty miles away.