Lost Minnesota: Stories of Vanished Places

Lost Minnesota: Stories of Vanished Places

Lost Minnesota: Stories of Vanished Places

Lost Minnesota: Stories of Vanished Places

Excerpt

I didn ot set out to become a chronicler of lost Minnesota properties. The opportunity arrived unexpectedly in 1990, when the editor of Architecture Minnesota magazine called and asked if I would be interested in taking over its well-established “Lost Minnesota” column. I hesitated. What is the value, I wondered, in trying to grasp the vanished dreams of architects, poking in the rubble of discarded buildings, and resurrecting places that most people had forgotten or never known?

The editor suggested that I start with Rockledge, the house formerly perched on the bluffs of the Mississippi River near Winona and designed by George W. Maher. This house, she said, had a good story. Stories intrigue me, so I said I would try it out. I'm still at it, ten years later.

Lost buildings and properties, like I suppose anything else that people create, repay close examination by offering tantalizing hints on the human condition. A building, after all, is erected only because someone thinks it is needed. It is later discarded because something has changed and it is no longer wanted. If nature has intervened and destroyed the property through fire, tornadoes, or shifting of the earth—all disasters that brought down some properties in the pages of this book—the responses of people to the calamity can also reveal much of human nature.

That is why even though I write my magazine column for an audience of architects, architecture has gradually diminished as a focus of my investigations. I like looking at the design of built properties, but even more I like looking at the lives that flickered inside. I am most interested in trying to understand how a property evolves from something that somebody invests time and money in designing and erecting to an annoyance that another person neglects and pulls down. In between those starting and ending points always lies a tale.

Lost Minnesota includes properties from all corners of the state and from all of its historical periods. In no way, however, is it an inventory of Minnesota's most important or significant vanished structures, by whatever criteria those choices could be made. Instead, I have chosen the properties in this book with other guidelines in mind.

The richness of commercial, agricultural, and social activities that have taken place in Minnesota encouraged me to research properties that reflect that diversity of human interest and endeavor. In these pages you will find farm structures, houses, industrial buildings, bridges, Indian burial . . .

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