By Samantha Grose, JP&CO: A residential construction firm dedicated to delivering a personalized home at a remarkable pace through an enjoyable process.
Here in the Twin Cities, we have a number of visually and historically interesting examples of art deco, many of which offer great activities for a fun day in the city. So, in the spirit of mixing some stimulating learning and exploring, I’ve compiled a list of some of the most interesting examples of art deco in St. Paul and Minneapolis. This week I’ll share some great spots in St. Paul. Next week: Minneapolis.
Art deco is a design style that was born in Paris in the 1920s, but spread in popularity internationally as late as World War II. The style can be described as elegant, glamorous, eclectic, and modern with bold outlines, geometric forms, zigzags, and many other distinct visual elements. In a nutshell, the style revolves around the concept of modernizing more traditional forms in architecture. The most famous example of art deco is probably the Chrysler Building in New York City (pictured below).
There are so many wonderful things to see at the Como Park, both architecturally and otherwise, that it’s hard to know where to start. Upon first arrival, enjoy the beauty of the conservatory, which was built in 1915 and is one of the last remaining Victorian-style greenhouses in the North America. Once you’re ready for a little animal watching, be sure to take a moment to appreciate the art deco design on the Zoological building, which was designed in 1936 by architect Charles Bassford. The best part? The entire zoo and conservatory are free to the public. http://www.comozooconservatory.org/
Did you know that Harriet Island used to have a public bathhouse, beach, and many other public offerings to encourage health and cleanliness? Unfortunately, they had to close the bathhouse when it became evident that pollution in the Mississippi was interfering with the “cleanliness” aspect of the bathing. Lucky for us, the island’s offerings have transitioned well into a nice open space and pavilion for event-going and relaxation. While visiting the island, be sure to check out the Pavilion (currently called the “Clarence Wigington Pavilion”, after its designer), built in 1941. The architecture is a combination of moderne and classical styles with stone salvaged from the old St. Paul City Hall, which was built in 1889 and demolished in 1933. (image: http://www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?NID=278)
This is probably the most fun landmark on my list today, not only for the building’s playfulness, but also for the feeling of time travel that stepping inside creates. Built in 1937 in New Jersey, the Mickey's Diner dining car was then shipped to St. Paul via train and installed just before World War II. Because it’s open 24 hours, employees joke that the restaurant has been frying eggs, pouring coffee, and serving burgers non-stop ever since. The car is so iconic, it’s even been featured in many motion pictures, including the cult classic, The Mighty Ducks. http://www.mickeysdiningcar.com/ (image: mickeysdiningcar.com)
It’s easy to get distracted by all the sounds, smells, food, people, and flashing lights at the State Fair. But while you’re there, try to remember to take a moment to appreciate some of the interesting architecture that goes on display and houses the innumerable curiosities we all love so much. Both the Horticulture building and the 4H Building were built in 1947 and encompass a recognizable art deco style. Public Radio actually published a little guide to state fair architecture that provides an easy outline of notable structures. (image: http://www.agilitynut.com/deco/mn.html)
Associate AIA, Allied ASID Designer for JP&CO.