Star Tribune Building Series: Architecture Nomenclature

This is the first blog in a three-part series on the Minneapolis Star Tribune building that was located at 425 Portland Avenue South in Minneapolis. This first blog features architecture nomenclature; subsequent posts will include a "Did You Know" post and another on the amalgamation of Minneapolis and St. Paul newspaper companies. Preservation Design Works conducted the historical building documentation prior to demolition. Excerpts from the “Documentation of Building History,” written by PVN's Tamara Halvorsen Ludt, are segmented with nomenclature definitions and images of the Star Tribune Building, taken by Daniel Pratt.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune building at 425 Portland Avenue South in Minneapolis was constructed in 1919 with significant additions and exterior renovations taking place in 1940, 1945-49, and 1966. The renovations and additions of the 1940s and 1960s, including the re-cladding of the primary façade, were designed by the Minneapolis architectural firm of Larson & McLaren and built by the contracting firm of C.F. Haglin and Sons.  

The current Streamline Moderne façade dates to the late 1940s. The façade is composed of white and black brick, buff Indiana limestone, and polished black granite. 

Streamline Moderne: Is a late type of the Art Deco architecture and design that emerged in the 1930s. Its architectural style emphasized curving forms, long horizontal lines, and sometimes nautical elements.

The primary façade fronts Portland Avenue South and is dominated by a five story section, which contains the building’s main entrance as well as two of its character defining architectural features – six carved limestone medallions depicting the major industries of the Upper Midwest and carved limestone lettering proclaiming “Star and Tribune”.

Medallion: An ornamental plaque (usually oval or square, but may be of any other form) on which is represented an object in relief, such as a figure, head, flower, etc., applied to a wall frieze, or other architectural member. [2]

The medallions are approximately 6 inches thick and 52 inches wide. The six medallions to the left and right of the windows feature artistic representations of lumber, agriculture, tourism, dairy farming, mining, and milling.

University of Minnesota Art professor Ivan Doseff designed the medallions by making a plaster cast of each medallion that was secured to the building so that the limestone could be carved in place by a pantograph.[1] 

Pantograph: Is a large mechanical tracing apparatus that is used to increase the scale of an image. It can also be used in the creation of sculptures. In the case of the Star Tribune building, the design for the medallions was traced with one end of the pantograph and carved at a much greater scale with the other end.  

A decorative course of carved limestone featuring chevrons and curves meets the stringcourse of buff brick soldiers beneath the roofline of the four-story sections of the building. The bonding pattern of the light brick is a variation on Flemish Garden Wall Bond.[3]

Course: A layer of masonry units running horizontally in a wall or, much less commonly, curved over an arch; it is bonded with mortar.[4]

Stringcourse: A horizontal band of masonry, generally narrower than other courses, extending across the façade of a structure and in some instances encircling such decorative features as pillars or engaged columns; may be flush or projecting, and flat-surfaced, molded, or richly carved.[5]

Soldiers: Usually descriptive of brick standing on their ends with edge to the front.[6]

Flemish Garden Wall Bond: A blond similar to Flemish bond except that in each course a header is followed by three stretchers. (Flemish bond: In brickwork, a bond in which each course consists of headers and stretchers laid alternatively; each header is centered with respect to the stretcher above and the stretcher below.)[7] 

The interior of the Star Tribune building has undergone several updates and retains very little historic material. The main entrance on Portland Avenue South was modified in 1977 to accommodate the current revolving door; the wired glass in the interior corridor windows was added at the same time.[8] 

Wired glass: Also known as wire mesh glass, it has a grid or mesh of thin metal wire embedded within the glass.

Bottocino marble cladding remains on some of the lobby walls, though it was stripped from the structural columns in 1977.[9] The Italian travertine marble that once covered the lobby’s floor has been replaced with terrazzo.[10] The elevator doors may date to the 1949 renovation when doors with “etched metal” were added.[11] The second floor photo studio and employee gym were once the composing room and retain the wood block floors that were used in 1940 as a means of soundproofing the space.[12]   

Terrazzo: Is a composite material, poured in place or precast, which is used for floor and wall treatments. It consists of marble, quartz, granite, glass, or other suitable chips, and poured with a binder that is cementitious (for chemical binding), polymeric (for physical binding), or a combination of both. Terrazzo is cured and then ground and polished to a smooth surface or otherwise finished to produce a uniformly textured surface.

The conveyor tracks that lined the floor of the press room and the underground tunnels that were once used to transport newsprint and papers, both dating to the 1940 and 1949 renovations, are still visible.[13] 

For more architecture nomenclature, visit an earlier blog post here.

NOTES

[1]“Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Building and Other Facts,” Newspaper Vertical Files, Minneapolis History Collection, Hennepin County Library James K. Hosmer Special Collections, Minneapolis Central Library.

[2] Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture, ed. By Cyril M. Harris, (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1983).

[3] Paul Tabor, “Different Types of Brick Bonding,” Paul Tabor’s Brickwork, accessed March 25, 2014, http://paultaborbrickwork.blogspot.com/p/different-types-of-brick-bonding.html.

[4] Illustrated Dictionary, 1983.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Henry H. Saylor, Dictionary of Architecture, (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1952). 

[7] Ibid. 

[8] Minneapolis Plan Vault Collection (N115, Box 538), Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries, Minneapolis.

[9] Minneapolis Plan Vault Collection (N115, Box 538), Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries, Minneapolis.

[10] Larson and McLaren Papers (Box 538), Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries, Minneapolis; “From Medieval Manuscripts to Our Modern Newspaper Presses,” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune Coloroto II, May 22, 1949, p.16, Newspaper Vertical Files, Minneapolis History Collection, Hennepin County Library James K. Hosmer Special Collections, Minneapolis Central Library.

[11] “New Star and Tribune Plant is One of Finest in the World,” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, May 22, 1949, 2, Hennepin County Library Special Collections, Minneapolis Central Library.

[12] “Composing Room a Feature of New Minneapolis Plant: Star Journal Completes $1,000,000 expansion and Remodeling Program—Fluorescent Lighting Installed,” Editor & Publisher, August 10, 1940, Newspaper Vertical Files, Minneapolis History Collection, Hennepin County Library James K. Hosmer Special Collections, Minneapolis Central Library.

[13] Larson and McLaren Papers (115a, Box 98), Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries, Minneapolis; Minneapolis Building Permit G35651, October 7, 1947.