Building History and Description Municipal Building (City Hall/Court House), Minneapolis Minnesota

The Minnesota legislature passed an act in 1887 creating the Board of Court House and City Hall Commissioners. This Board was empowered to acquire land and construct a building. In 1887 the entire block was appraised and acquired for $321,408. The Construction Committee of the Board called for competitive bids from architects.. The guidelines of the bid advertisement specified as follows: the building was to cost $1,150,000, the main and most ornamental entrance was to be on Fourth Street with entrances on the three other sides, to be of fireproof construction, built to serve a population of one-half to three-quarters of a million persons and half to belong to the city and half to the county The five best plans were to get prizes totaling $4,000 and the ultimate winner $1,500.

On February 28, 1888 the Board began studying the 26 plans submitted. The five prizewinners were W. H. Dennis and Company, $1,000; M E. Bell, $600; Alexander Murrel, $500; G.W. and F.D. Orff, $400; and Long and Kess, $1,500.

Construction started in late 1888, and the corner stone was laid on July 16, 1891. Deeds were executed by Minneapolis and Hennepin County on May 18, 1909. The period from enabling legislation to the execution of the deeds was 22 years.

The winning architects were Long and Kees. Architectural plans of the building bear their names and are in the possession of the Municipal Building Commission and the Northwest Architectural Archives St. Paul. Long and Kees also built the Lumber Exchange, the Corn Exchange, Holmes Building, Kasota Building. Masonic Temple and Public Library, all in Minneapolis.

Excavation was performed by the firm Balch and Wetherbee at a cost of 26 1/2 cents a cubic yard except 20 cents a cubic yard for sand which was to be piled nearby.

The footings are of native limestone from the quarries of the Franklin Cook estate and were purchased from the Trustees of that estate.

Kettle River Sandstone was used in the foundation walls, the open court and backing of the granite walls. This sandstone was from the quarry of Ring and Tobin, Hinckley, Minnesota and the substructure, using that sandstone, was done by Bengt Aronson for $131,529.

The Ortonville granite was from the quarries of James Baxter and Sons, Minneapolis. Many of the granite blocks weighed more than 20 tons, and one lintel was purported to weigh 26 tons. They were transported by horse and wagon to Minneapolis.

The M. F. Sullivan Company, Minneapolis, furnished the Bedford stone from Indiana. This stone was used on the interior face work of the three vestibules of the Fourth Street entrance, in the groined arch ceilinqs, moldings, pilasters and panels.

The general contract in the amount of $245,000 for basement work was awarded to Hoglin and Morse, Minneapolis. Iron work in the basement was subcontracted to Crown Iron Works at a cost of $61,000.

The roof, beamwork and iron work went to the Gillette-Herzog Company.

The building contains approximately 13,850,000 hard-pressed bricks, 3,260,000 pounds of iron columns and lintels, 60,000 square feet of Italian marble and 350,000 cubic feet of cut granite.

Total costs for specific portions of the Municipal Building were:

The site$ 321,408.00
Interior Main Entrance & Rotunda<>/td>263,950.75
Interior Fifth Street Entrance47,803.53
Assembly & G.A.R. Halls54,660.84
Heat, light & power plant90.756.23
Chimes of bells6,347.06
Architects fees, about133,000,00
All else2,518,821.69

The above total exceeds the total listed on the bronze tablet in the rotunda which was $3,554,000. The small balance it was felt would be consumed by unknown incidental expenses.

The original building plans showed a water closet rotunda to be located in the interior court. It appears the rotunda was never built probably, because of cost. The clock tower facade also seems to have been drawn more ornately than as actually built. Either sections or all of the windows on the four exterior elevations had striped awnings which are no longer present.

The original roof was of terra cotta tiles but began leaking in the late 1940's A 180,000 pound copper roof was installed in 1950. It was said that the new copper roof was the largest in the United States.

Most windows on the ground floor have been glass-blocked as have a few on the first floor, Third Street side. This first floor area once housed computers. The glass blocks were likely placed to shield the sensitive computers from the outside elements as the windows are only single paned. Plans are currently being prepared to place energy efficient windows on the building. It is intended to remove the glass block on the first floor at the time the new windows are installed. Also, the Mayor's office complex and the Police administration on first floor have mesh screening on their windows which was added as security in the demonstration years, 1969-1970, It is hoped that these can also be removed someday.

Both the Fifth Street entrance and the Fourth Street entrances have been altered. The Fourth Street main entrance was very wide and in three sections or vestibules. The two side sections were closed to the outside and office space was built into them. Today, only the middle vestibule remains.

A public entrance no longer exists on the Fourth Avenue side. A special security garage was added in 1976-1977 as part of the jail remodeling. This was sensitively done to maintain the historical exterior of the building and appears to have succeeded, however, the pink granite of the garage has smooth surface unlike the rusticulated finish in much of the remainder of the building stone.

In the interior court because of space constraints,, a four story building was added in 1949. Prior to this construction, in 1946 some of the stained glass windows facing the rotunda were permanently backed with brick walls and are now backlighted or not lit at all. Originally, natural light shone through the stained glass above the rotunda. This was also blocked and the light is now provided by fluorescent fixtures.

The interior of the building has been significantly altered if one compares present views with original floor plans and early views. Originally there were large open areas such as the G.A.R. Hall, Mayor's Reception Area, Courtroom Number 1 and the City Council Chambers. Over the years, these areas have been subdivided for more office space. The Mayor's Reception Room now houses the Mayor's personal staff and the G.A.R. Assembly Room is now Police Department. The large Courtroom Number 1 was subdivided into four smaller courtrooms.

A mezzanine floor was added between the third and fourth floors on the City side. Because this particular construction was above the three story ornate Council Chambers, the character of the Council chambers was changed dramatically.

The. fourth floor which once was dedicated to office space after 1977 became a second jail floor. In almost all interior spaces the offices have lowered ceilings to accommodate modern mechanical work and lighting.

The hallways have generally retained their original character but this too has begun changing in recent years with lowered ceilings. In 1981 during the City Council remodeling project the course of the hallway on the third floor was changed.