Tag Archives: building

Fun with Historic Plaster. Or, Unintended Consequences

Hennepin History Museum is located in a beautiful historic building. It’s a very solid building, but it is nearly 100 years old and it does need some maintenance and upgrades. Recently we’ve identified a ceiling that is at immediate risk of falling, and are asking for your help to address it.

First, some background. In 2017, we were awarded a Legacy grant to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the building. We have been working with an architectural team all this year to review the building’s history and condition. When complete, we will be able to use this document to guide decisions relating to the building, including how to best add climate control and how to make our home accessible, as well as the order in which to tackle items such as repairing masonry, replacing plaster, upgrading electricity, and other similar needs. We made a decision to hold off on all but essential repairs until we had the completed report; that way we could address prevention, maintenance, and repairs in a strategic way. In a typical year, pressing emergency repairs include things like electrical work, leaking pipes, and minor roof repairs.

Unfortunately, we are now facing a serious unexpected repair need that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. The plaster ceiling in our basement hallway and work space is in danger of falling down. The cracks had existed for years. In what is a classic case of unintended consequences, however, the heavy increase in foot traffic in the Museum’s main hallway (directly above the downstairs hallway) has escalated the rate of separation of the plaster from the lathe. We have so many more visitors, volunteers, and staff walking that corridor daily that the cracks below have increased significantly in recent months.

celing 4

Our architectural team has advised that it is dangerous to wait until 2019 to address this cracked ceiling. It could come down at any time, and if it it does fall down it will come down in a sheet — and could potentially injure anyone standing below. This space is a central hub for our collections spaces, as well as is the hallway between our archives and the reading room. The safety of people is our top priority and we have restricted access to this space as a result… causing extreme inconvenience to our volunteers and staff, and limiting our ability to work in downstairs storage spaces.

We have obtained several bids for the removal of the ceiling, and expect it to cost between $3,000 and $4,000. Would you consider making a gift to help cover this unexpected cost? Your gift, whether $4,000, $400, or $40 will make a difference. It will help us to continue our operations on behalf of local history uninterrupted, and will keep this beautiful historic building in good shape.

Click here to help with the ceiling costs

If you have any questions about our historic building or this project, please contact Kristin at kristin.kaspar@hennepinhistory.org.

Thank you!

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Update on Historic Structure Report progress – June 2018

We are pleased to announce that Hennepin History Museum is now working with Collaborative Design Group (CDG) on our Historic Structure Report (HSR). Eight architectural firms responded to our Request for Proposals and toured the building. All eight submitted bids for the project!

We liked CDG’s focus on historic preservation and renovation which is reflected in previous projects that are similar to ours. Their team has many years of experience identifying and evaluating HVAC, mechanical, electrical and structural issues in historic buildings and making recommendations based on current and anticipated uses.

HSR kick-off 1 LR

Our kick off meeting was held on April 19th and since then we have been working closely with CDG to interpret our building’s history and evaluate its current condition. The team has been all over the building, looking in every nook and cranny, from the boiler room to the tip of our tallest chimney. It has been so interesting to work with the various specialists and learn more about our building and grounds.

Kristen Oliver reflected in doorway

Image courtesy CDG

 

The final report, which will be completed in November, will assist future planning by creating a detailed picture of the building as it is today. It will also include a prioritized list of repairs and suggested changes, such as ADA improvements, in order to make our home even more welcoming to all.

A very special thank you goes out to the volunteer members of our HSR Advisory team: John Crippen, Debbie Goettel, Reed Holiman, Kim Jeppesen, Casey Krolczyk, Cara Letofsky and Becka Rahn, and to staff representatives Kristin Kaspar, Cedar Phillips, James Bacigalupo, and Heidi Heller. Each one went the extra mile by familiarizing themselves with the National Park Service’s Brief 43 (the official guidelines for an HSR), our grant request and our RFP prior to evaluating the bids to make the final recommendation. Many from this team will continue to be available as needed as we move through the HSR project.

We plan to offer periodic updates on our HSR, both in our magazine, Hennepin History, and on our blog. Stay tuned!

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This project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society. Thank you, fellow Minnesotans, for supporting arts and culture through the Legacy Amendment!

A Fantasy in Iron

This section of ornamental ironwork was harvested from the wreckage of the demolished Metropolitan Building, 3rd Street and 2nd Avenue South, in downtown Minneapolis. It was created by August Malmsten and Andrew Nelson who, in 1878, began a blacksmith business on the banks of the Mississippi River overlooking St. Anthony Falls. The business expanded rapidly, providing machinery repair services to the surrounding flour and sawmills, and supplying steel for the booming building trade in and around Minneapolis.

By 1884 the Malmsten and Nelson Company had become the Crown Iron Works Company. The company became the leading fabricator of structural steel, ornamental iron, and bronze and aluminum metal work. In 1888, at the height of what became known as Minneapolis’ “Golden Age” of architecture, Crown Ornamental Iron Works was commissioned to create an extravaganza of ironwork to dress the atrium of the Northwestern Guaranty Loan Building. Twelve stories of bronze-trimmed, cast, and wrought iron, in the art nouveau style, at a cost of $167,000, was created in the Minneapolis plant, located at 113-117 2nd Avenue S.E. The remnant seen here was donated to Hennepin History Museum by Wayne Murphy, former Director of the Robbinsdale Historical Society.

Metropolitan Building interior

In 1890 the doors opened to one of the most significant, not to mention stunning, pieces of architecture in Minneapolis history. Designed by E. Townsend Mix, for Louis Menage, the Northwestern Guaranty Loan Building was born of light filled glass, breathtaking Art Nouveau filigree iron work, green New Hampshire granite, Red lake- Superior sandstone, and Italian marble, and was crowned with an open- air roof garden and observation tower. 8,000 illustrious guests attended the grand opening.

Metropolitan Building c 1890s.jpg

The first tenants included forerunners to Pillsbury, Wells Fargo, and the Soo Line railroad companies, as well as one of Minneapolis’ first African American Restaurant owners, Jasper Gibbs. It was the most prestigious business address in Minneapolis. In 1905 The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company bought the building, it has since been known as the Metropolitan Building.

The onset of urban renewal in the late 1950s set in motion discussions of the razing of the Metropolitan Building. The movement to save the Metropolitan was impressive. It was led by Robert Bliss, University of Minnesota professor of Architecture. In September  1961, Sidney Simon, Director of the University Gallery, Martin Friedman, Director of the Walker Art Center, and Carl J. Weinhardt, Director of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, issued the following joint statement at their museums, accompanied by an exhibition of documentary photographs of the Metropolitan Building:

“Photographs such as these may soon be all that will remain of this important architectural monument. This magnificent pioneer skyscraper originally known as the Northwestern Guaranty Loan Building was designed by E. Townsend Mix and constructed between 1888 and 1890. This building made audacious structural use of steel, concrete and glass. Its fanciful design motifs are characteristic of the turn of the century. The principles involved in the cantilevered balconies with their translucent floors and light filled court are completely consistent with those found in the best recent architecture”

Ninety days later, demolition of the Metropolitan Building began.

 

Big News! Museum Receives Large Grant for Building Needs

We have exciting news to share with our readers!

Hennepin History Museum is pleased to announce that the Minnesota Historical Society has awarded us a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant in the amount of $75,000 to support the creation of a Historic Structure Report (HSR) for our building!

What is a historic structure report and why does it matter, you ask?

“A historic structure report provides documentary, graphic, and physical information about a property’s history and existing condition. Broadly recognized as an effective part of preservation planning, a historic structure report also addresses management or owner goals for the use or re-use of the property. It provides a thoughtfully considered argument for selecting the most appropriate approach to treatment, prior to the commencement of work, and outlines a scope of recommended work. The report serves as an important guide for all changes made to a historic property during a project-repair, rehabilitation, or restoration-and can also provide information for maintenance procedures. Finally, it records the findings of research and investigation, as well as the processes of physical work, for future researchers.”

– Preservation Brief 43, National Park Service

Driving this report is a need to create a more modern environment for museum visitors, volunteers and staff, while retaining and honoring the historic character of the building.

IMG_0218

One of many lovely and distinctive historic details that make this building special.

Two major goals of the project will include:

  • Figure out how to implement ADA improvements, such as an elevator and accessible bathrooms so that we can better serve all members of our community; and
  • Assess the current over-all condition of the building and what repairs are needed to maintain our beautiful home.

 

stairs

We love these dramatic steps; we don’t love that we have no elevator. The HSR is a first step towards addressing that.

We’ve been working on identifying options and making building improvements all year, but the HSR will pull together all of these needs into one comprehensive report. This is the first step in what will be a multi-year project; once we know exactly what we need to do – and how much it will cost! – we can systematically go about making it happen. The end result will be a fully functioning museum facility that fully meets the needs of our visitors and our collection.

Some background: our building was completed in 1920, and used as a family home by Carolyn McKnight Christian. The Christian Family Residence is a mix of English Renaissance Revival and late English Gothic, built by Hewitt and Brown. Hennepin History Museum has owned and occupied the building since 1957. Make sure to follow along on our blog and on social media as we’ll be sharing museum and building history throughout 2018 (our 80th anniversary as an organization!).

entrance hall. from scrapbook.

Our main hallway shortly after the building became a museum

For more information about Historic Structure Reports, see https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/43-historic-structure-reports.htm.

And thank you, fellow Minnesotans, for supporting arts and culture through the Legacy Amendment!

In the meantime, if you would like to contribute to support local history – and to help us pay for all the work that has yet to be done! – you can make an online donation by clicking here.

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