By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For 40 years it was the tallest building in Minneapolis and over the decades, much has changed at the Foshay Tower.

“One of my favorite parts of the day is going up to our observation deck and doing a quick lap and seeing how the city is waking up for the day,” said Trina Anthony of W Minneapolis, Foshay Tower.

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For 92 years, the Foshay Tower has had a front-row seat to Minneapolis sunrises and sunsets. And not just Minneapolis. From the 31st floor, the view knows no limits.

“On a clear day you can see in every direction about 30 miles,” said Anthony.

It’s the way creator Wilbur Foshay wanted it. As a boy, his dad took him to see the Washington Monument and Foshay was fascinated. So when he made his fortune in utilities, he decided to construct a building using the same floor plan as the Monument he loved. And because the Foshay narrows like the Washington Monument, every floor you go up is 4 inches smaller than the one below it.

“The Foshay Tower completed construction in August of 1929 and was concluded with a big grand opening celebration on Labor Day weekend,” said Anthony.

Twenty-five thousand guests showed up for that — including politicians and even the Secretary of War. But for Foshay, the celebration was short-lived. The party crasher was the market crash of ’29. It exposed Foshay’s wrong-doings and he went to jail.

“The charges were mail fraud, but it was essentially the very first Ponzi scheme,” said Anthony.

Those infamous early years are archived in the building’s museum, along with hundreds of other relics that have been here since day one. That includes John Philip Sousa’s march that was played at the grand opening and never played again — because the check used to pay him, bounced.

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When Foshay folded, tenants like WCCO, General Motors and even the Norwegian Consulate moved in. Foshay never got to live on the 28th floor he was going to call home. The 27th floor, which was supposed to be his official quarters, still has the original mahogany wood. But nowadays it’s known more for happy hours.

“This is now our ‘speakeasy in the sky’ where you can come and have a cocktail,” said Anthony.

Along with the Prohibition Bar, the W Hotel and Manny’s Steakhouse also keep the tower busy. But sometimes visitors show up simply because of the impression the Foshay has had on the city.

“People have come back to say my parents were engaged here on the observation deck. It brings a lot of families together so it’s a great place to be,” said Lakshmi Petrucci of W Minneapolis -Foshay Tower.

A skyscraper that helped create a skyline with 447 feet of Indiana Limestone — and Minnesota history.

“There’s always a new corner or new part of the hotel that I find fascinating,” said Anthony. “It’s a great opportunity to be a part of history in our hotel.”

Foshay was eventually pardoned by President Harry Truman. His building was the tallest in Minneapolis until 1972 when the IDS Center was built. In January of 1981, the building was wrapped in a yellow ribbon during the last days of the Iran hostage crisis.

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Visit Explore Minnesota for more information on Foshay Museum and Observation Deck. 

John Lauritsen