By Coco Mault
On the skyway level of the 501 Marquette building — also known as The Soo Line Building — is a squared-off section of ceiling hollowed out above a staircase. The hollow comes to a dome shape and all four sides feature the Minneapolis skyline in pastel tones. The image was painted in 1993 by artists K. Blassingame and Elise Kinkead. Perhaps they wanted to represent an early stage of Minneapolis’s development. It could very well represent the year 1915, when this building by architect Robert W. Gibson’s was completed, becoming the tallest building in Minneapolis; the Foshay Tower would steal that title 14 years later in 1929. The 501 Marquette building is sort of a focal point in the painting — it’s easy to spot two cream-colored towers near the ceiling light. Because of the angle, it’s difficult to see that this structure is actually u-shaped rather than two separate towers.
According to Emporis, an online database for buildings, the original interior painting was done by W.P. Nelson Company of Chicago. But there have been many modifications to this building, and it’s clear that all traces of that original painting did not escape the chisel. Further investigation shows that this company decorated many notable buildings in Chicago as well as a few New York City mainstays including the New Amsterdam theater, the Woolworth, and the Rector Hotel.
Additionally, walkers who find themselves in this area of the skyway overlooking fifth street will be able to spot a massive old Soo Line clock jutting out from the building. The light rail also runs along 5th street, and a well-scouted spot in the skyway offers a fun glimpse of the trains from above.
Premium Quality Coin, located at 6th Street South and 2nd Avenue (the store address is 110 So. 7th St. #222) is worth mentioning. The store is full of antique and rare coins, along with other small historical ephemera. Blink at the wrong moment and visitors will likely walk right past the tiny storefront and miss the bright copper glint emanating from the store’s back wall.
The entire back wall of the store is consumed by an American flag (the 13 Colonies version) made of real pennies. Exactly how many pennies make up the patriotic image remains a mystery however; when asked how many are glued on the wall, the shopkeeper could only reply “Quite a bit!” Don’t be afraid to stop in and gawk at the back wall. But for anyone just passing by, it’s easy to spot all of that copper from outside the shop as well.
What better display of art could there be in the skyways but images of skyways themselves? How meta! In the U.S. Trust Building, on the corner of 8th Street South and 2nd Avenue South, there are a few large framed photos, both day and night shots, of various Minneapolis skyways.
The U.S. Trust building is also known as the Baker Building. According to the building’s website, Morris T. Baker, George D. Dayton and several other investors formed the Intersection Holding Company and purchased the property in 1925.
Larry Kanfer’s images decorate an otherwise bland, whitewashed hallway in this building; pity they are in more of a skyway tributary rather than the main thoroughfare. Kanfer was artistic since childhood, knowing how to develop his own film since he was 10 years old. From his website: “He had the support of a caring family and the benefit of formal and informal training in various art disciplines. In 1979 he earned his degree in architecture. Kanfer acknowledges ‘…that no doubt my concepts of light and shadow, form and composition were greatly influenced by my studies in architecture. But I was paying for the architecture classes with my photography.'”
Read more about art on the skyways.