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Metropolitan Dreams: The Scandalous Rise and Stunning Fall of a Minneapolis Masterpiece

University of Chicago Press

9781517904166

When it opened in 1890, the twelve-story Northwestern Guaranty Loan Building was the tallest, largest, and most splendid commercial structure in Minneapolis — a mighty stone skyscraper built for the ages. How this grand Richardsonian Romanesque edifice, which later came to be called the Metropolitan Building , rose with the growth of Minneapolis only to fall in the throes of the city's postwar renewal, is revealed in Metropolitan Dreams in all its scandalous intrigue. It is a tale of urban growing pains and architectural ghosts and of colorful, sometimes criminal characters amid the grandeur and squalor of building and rebuilding a city's skyline.

Against the thrumming backdrop of turn-of-the-century Minneapolis, architectural critic and historian Larry Millett recreates the impressive rise of the massive office building, its walls of green New Hampshire granite and red Lake Superior sandstone surrounding its true architectural wonder, a dazzling twelve-story iron and glass light court. The drama, however, was far from confined to the building itself. A consummate storyteller, Millett summons the frenetic atmosphere in Gilded Age Minneapolis that encouraged the likes of Northwestern Guaranty's founder, real estate speculator Louis Menage, whose shady deals financed this Minneapolis masterpiece — and then forced him to flee both prosecution and the country a mere three years later.

Dubious as its financial beginnings might have been, the economic circumstances of the Metropolitan's demise were at least as questionable. Anchoring Minneapolis's historic Gateway District in its heyday, the building's fortunes shifted with the city's demographics and finally it fell victim to the fervor of one of the largest downtown urban renewal projects ever undertaken in the United States. Though the long and furious battle to save the Metropolitan ultimately failed in 1962, its ghost persists in the passion for historic preservation stirred by its demise — and in Metropolitan Dreams , whose photographs, architectural drawings, and absorbing narrative bring the building and its story to vibrant, enduring life.




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