Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Star and Tribune Building, 1949

For years, the Minneapolis newspaper, the Star Tribune, editorialized for a new football stadium. Not coincidentally, the paper is located near the stadium site and owns lots of land (currently parking lots) that would become more valuable in the midst of the redevelopment that, in theory, accompanies a stadium.

Then it turned out that the Star Tribune's own building would be part of the redevelopment area, so they're moving to one of the city's anonymous glass towers. The building they're leaving to the wrecking ball should (but won't) be saved. As Steve Sande writes in the MinnPost article linked,

the building's dominant motif [is] its massive horizontal lines. The Star and Tribune Building is intended to register like a perspective drawing best viewed from the corner of Fifth and Portland. There (near the complementary WPA Moderne Minneapolis Armory), those alternating bands of black- and cream-colored brick have their most dramatic effect....

Mass is the message of this building. Atop its five-story section along Portland Avenue, above polished slabs of black granite that tower over pedestrians, the newspaper proudly proclaims its name in colossal letters. That message is none too subtle: Take heed, puny humans, for we are the Fourth Estate.
I recently found (in my basement explorations) a 1949 special section of the Sunday Tribune, marking the opening of the building. What a difference an era makes.

This rendering highlights the horizontal lines Sande described, and also shows the building's overall Moderne style.

The lower half of the front page includes two aerial shots of the block and how it's situated in Downtown.

This 1949 photo is shot from just the angle that Sande recommended.

Just a few years earlier (but before World War II), the building lacked the four-paneled windows and concrete arch surrounding them, though it had the alternating stripes.

An even earlier structure. It appears they added the striped facade to this building in the 1940 renovation, as well as adding onto the left side and back.

Note that each time they rebuilt, the architectural indication of the entrance got bigger, in scale to the larger structure.

This was the entrance of the 1949 building, located to the right of the four window panels. These stylized doors, as well as the decorative embellishments above and the funky metal lettering, were all removed at some point; my guess is that it was after the paper's major, modernist redesign in the early 1970s. The most recent, generic iteration is visible in the MinnPost photo; one commenter on the article remarks on how the building needs a bigger statement at the door.

A couple of other notable images from the insert. First, the newsroom. Note the horseshoe-shaped copy desk in the right foreground. The guys sitting around the outside were editing copy and writing headlines around the "rim," and the copy chief,  seated at the center of the horseshoe, was in the "slot," the final position of power over a story's content. Each large newspaper in America had one of these desks.

Every person in the photo is a white man except possibly the three people I've circled in white -- one black man on the right side of the rim (at least I think so, click the image to zoom in and see if you agree) and two white women back in the reporters' area (mostly identifiable because they have more hair).

Where were all the women? Taking want ads, of course:

The "girls," who all appear to be white, provide "fast pleasant service" while sitting at "26 specially-designed desks.... The single-position desks are equipped with noiseless typewriters. A total of 44 incoming calls can be handled at once in the soundproof room."

One final note on the insert: It's full of ads from the many construction companies that worked on the building.


Martina Lof said...

Hi! What is your name, I would like to use one of your images and cite you. Thank you// Martina

Daughter Number Three said...

Hi, Martina. You can use any of these images. Just cite Daughter Number Three and the blog address. If you'd like a larger version of the images, send me an email at

Gina said...

I totally missed that the Strib building would be part of the re-development prompted by the new Vikings stadium. How sad. I wonder how happy the employees will be in a corporate skyscraper.....