Léon Eugène Arnal
The two Minneapolis buildings in this gallery--the main Post Office, a fine example of the PWA Moderne style and the Foshay Tower, 821 Marquette Ave—were both designed by Frenchman Leon Arnal for the firm of Magney and Tusler.
The Post Office building emphasizes the horizontal, which was part of an overall plan to efficiently move mail through the facility. Arnal balanced the dominant horizontality by recessing the window bays between vertical columns. Between the windows in each vertical group, metal spandrels contrast with the ochre-colored Kasota stone, which was quarried near Mankato, Minnesota. The facade is anchored on each end by an imposing two-story entrance pavilion that resembles a fortress gate. The lobby retains many of the original Deco features, such as bronze window grilles, terrazzo floors, and writing tables. The central light fixture is over 200 feet long and once housed an air conditioning system that was the state of the art when installed. At the time of construction, it was the longest light fixture in the world. Russia’s Joseph Stalin heard about this and made sure one of the Moscow Metro Stations had one a few feet longer.
At 450 feet high and 32 stories, the Foshay Tower when completed in 1929 became the tallest building between Chicago and the west coast when it was finished in 1929. The Tower’s exterior, clad with Indiana limestone, and its obelisk shape were copied from the Washington Monument. Wilbur Burton Foshay’s is emblazoned on all four sides of the tower in 10-foot-high letters just below its ziggurat top. The building was constructed of steel and reinforced concrete, and its foundation went down five floors below street level to bedrock. The top floor contains an open-air observation deck and a display of the building’s history. The interior details — marble walls, cast iron radiator grates, and bronze Art Deco elevator doors — were Minneapolis’s first example of the “modern French style.” Between 2006 and 2008, it was renovated and reopened as a 230-room hotel, the W Hotel Minneapolis - The Foshay.
© Alan John Ainsworth Photography