Building 51 | Building 51 | c. 1890 ornamental cast iron northwestern guaranty building atrium baluster panel – edward townsend mix, architect
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c. 1890 ornamental cast iron northwestern guaranty building atrium baluster panel – edward townsend mix, architect



Non-Chicago Artifacts

About This Item

hard to find all original ornamental cast iron balustrade panel removed from the naturally lit, interior atrium of the c. 1889-90 metropolitan building located in downtown minneapolis, mn. the non-extant metropolitan building, originally known as the northwestern guaranty loan building, is considered to be one of the most architecturally significant structures in the history of minneapolis, minnesota. it stood from 1890 until it was torn down starting in 1961 as part of major urban renewal efforts in the city that saw about 40% of the downtown district razed and replaced with new structures. at the time, the pending destruction of the richardsonian romanesque building provided a catalyst for historic preservation movements in the city and across the state. the building is considered by some to be the city’s first skyscraper, with 12 stories and standing 218 ft tall. small observation towers poked up above the corners, and the rooftop had a popular garden. it was built of green new hampshire granite and red lake superior sandstone, with the interiors dressed in antique oak. a large skylight allowed the interior to be safely lit in a time when the electric light was rare (though the building was eventually wired), and the floors of walkways circling the center court were translucent to allow more light to filter through. the building was designed by architect edward townsend mix in 1890. the metropolitan building is considered to be his most notable achievement. many of the city’s most prestigious companies had offices in the metropolitan. edward mix studied architecture under richard upjohn, who brought mix towards the gothic revival architecture that would become one of his most enduring styles. in 1855, e. townsend mix moved to chicago, illinois, and began a brief partnership with architect william w. boyington. the firm’s work took mix to milwaukee, wisconsin, where he decided to begin an independent practice in 1856. mix dissolved his partnership with boyington and began designing homes and businesses for milwaukee’s leading residents. mix was appointed wisconsin’s state architect from 1864 to 1867. the end of the civil war brought an important contract when he was chosen to design the milwaukee branch of the national soldiers’ home for disabled war veterans. the resulting structure, finished in 1869, is a colorful gothic revival building that still towers over the surrounding park and cemetery. mix also designed the gothic revival cathedral church of all saints and the monroe methodist church at about this time. mix’s career further accelerated when the new state of kansas selected his french renaissance design for the kansas state capitol in topeka. construction began in 1866, and several other architects including john g. haskell modified mix’s design before the building was completed 37 years later. during the early 1870’s, mix designed a number of italianate homes for prominent midwestern families, including villa louisin prairie du chien for h. louis dousman in 1870, and in 1874 both the robert patrick fitzgerald house in milwaukee and montauk in clermont, iowa, home of iowa governor william larrabee. by the second half of the 1870’s, mix shifted much of his focus to the second empire style. in 1873 he remodeled the home of leading milwaukee businessman alexander mitchell in this style, giving it a four-story tower and mansard roofs. later mitchell would hire mix to use the same style in designing two commercial buildings in downtown milwaukee: the mitchell building in 1876 and the adjoining mackie building in 1879. in the 1880’s, mix adopted a number of additional styles for his buildings. he used romanesque revival for st. paul’s episcopal church, built in milwaukee in 1874, and he employed elements of queen anne and eastlake styles for the a. h. allyn house in delavan, wisconsin, in 1885. mix sometimes mixed these styles with gothic revival, as in the everett street depot built in 1886 for the milwaukee road. by this time, however, the styles favored by mix were falling out of fashion in milwaukee as its increasingly german population demanded buildings more reminiscent of their homeland. in 1888, mix moved to minneapolis, minnesota, where he embarked on his largest project, the northwestern guaranty loan building, a twelve-story skyscraper in richardsonian romanesque style built with red lake superior sandstone. it was finished in 1890, the year of e. townsend mix’s death in minneapolis. the iron fabricator or foundry is not known.