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Arts & Culture

A Look At St. Paul Skyway Art

January 23, 2012 8:00 AM

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By Coco Mault

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — It would be an exaggeration to say that St. Paul’s skyway is like a real life M.C. Escher image, but some pedestrians just may think of this artist’s particularly mind-bending architectural images when walking down a hallway that just ends; St. Paul skyway explorers will inevitably find themselves being forced to retrace their steps back to the main tributary to try other paths.

It’s an odd thing to experience, and somewhat amusing. Luckily there are some pieces of art to look at along the way, even though the skyway itself isn’t quite a work of art — and also, thankfully, not quite an Escher piece, either.

First National Bank

332 Minnesota Street
St. Paul, MN 55101

The First National Bank Building is a good place to start exploring the St. Paul skyways. According to their website, the small skyway between their east and west towers just may be the very first skyway to have been built in St. Paul. There are a few interesting facts listed on their webpage, one of which states that there used to be a 96-foot long pistol range in the basement that the bank guards used for target practice. Also, the First National Bank Building and the Empire State Building were built around the same time and as a result, they had to compete for building materials. On skyway level, large abstract, modernist paintings by painter and sculpture David Adickes don the walls. The bright warm and cool tones are eye-catching against the building’s cream-colored art deco interior. Adickes’ work can be found all across the country, including in Huntsville, Texas where a 70-foot statue stands of Sam Houston entitled “Tribute to Courage.”

skyway2 A Look At St. Paul Skyway Art

(credit: Coco Mault)

Pioneer Building

332 North Robert Street
St. Paul, MN 55101

There isn’t much by way of art on the walls here, but the Pioneer Building is definitely worth worth a look. According to Wikipedia, this building had the nation’s first glass elevator. And the architect, Solon Spencer Beman, must have known, because he made a showcase of it. The elevator is surrounded by an impressive, if smallish, lobby. The excitement here comes from looking up — from the second floor it is possible to look all the way up to the glass rooftop. While looking up, look at the top four floors. Theses were added in 1909, 20 years after the building was completed. Beman designed these floors, too.

Wells Fargo Place

2 East 7th Street
St. Paul, MN 55101

Before it was named Wells Fargo Place on May 15, 2003, this building was the Minnesota World Trade Center. Though the name has changed, it is still the tallest building in St. Paul. There is a spacious, white central atrium in which a fountain takes central focus. It’s a round fountain surrounded by plants. There is a sculpture sitting in the middle of the fountain, but it’s possible this wasn’t always there. Old photos suggest that the additional sculpture was not part of the fountain when it was the World Trade Center. What’s there now is a large central piece consisting of two triangular shapes made of what looks to be copper, curved in a way to support a large, reddish marble-like ball. Unfortunately there is no placard posted giving the name of the piece or the artist.

Read more about the inspiring art of the skyways.

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