Larry Millett Week

A series to celebrate the publication of Larry’s new book
Once There Were Castles!

“Few of us, it seems read poetry any more but many of our memories whether for good or ill, remain deeply colored by buildings we knew as children…”

Once upon a time…a child born after World War II was baptised in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in North Minneapolis, a building he would later describe as “a twin towered Romanesque Revival Church built in 1887… the most notable building demolished to make way for the North Side segment of Interstate 94.”

When the boy was a teenager, he attended DeLaSalle High
School on Nicollet Island…the island had been sacred to Native Americans. Captains of the 19th lumber industry, William Eastman, John Merriam and William S. King built millwork factories and grand mansions on the island.

Eastman, as Larry later wrote, between 1882 and 1887 built an
impressive double row of stone town houses named “Eastman Flats” which “set new standards for size and elegance.” By 1991, the millwork factories were gone, the grand mansions were dust and the only section of the elegant flats that survived were on Grove Street, which was involved in a preservation battle in the 2000s.

Italianate wood frame houses were built for white settlers before the Civil War and into the 1870s. In the 1960s several old houses of a similar age were moved to the island from downtown and North East
Minneapolis and sold to aspiring young homeowners for renovation for $1.

Nicollet Island was connected to downtown Minneapolis via the oldest suspension bridge over the Mississippi River and East Hennepin Avenue…

When the teenaged DeLaSalle student walked across the
bridge he arrived at the Gateway District of Minneapolis.

The Gateway district consisted of blocks of old industrial buildings which in the 1950s and 60s housed day laborers, railroad workers, and the unemployed.

It was a rough part of town, it’s lovely Gateway Park
and Pavillion Larry wrote, was “a stately restrained excercise in
Beaux-Arts classicism”… but then he added, with a sense of injustice, “it was bulldozed along with everything else as part of the Gateway Urban Renewal Project in the 1960s.”

The architectural environment of 1960s downtown Minneapolis
was an exciting and inspiring world for this young man and his
father who shared a sense of wonder, passion and intellectual curiosity about the 19th century buildings, ….one in particular… the Metropolitian Building, he and his father visited often.

In 1961…it’s demolition inspired the young Larry Millett with a mission…which he has followed with dedicated intensity ever since…

In 1992, Larry (who became a journalist) worked in the majestic
Pioneer building in Saint Paul, and completed a course
of study in architecture. He wrote of the glory and destruction of
the Metropolitan and many other unique historic buildings in his book,
Lost Twin Cities.

Lost Twin Cities revolutionized the modern historic preservationist movement in Minnesota and inspired similar books and preservation
activism throughout the United States…

Of the Death of the Metropolitan Larry wrote this evocative elegy…

“On December 18, 1961, wrecking trucks rumbled through the streets of downtown Minneapolis toward a rendezvous with the past. Their destination was the corner of Third Street and Second Avenue South, where for seventy-one years the Metropolitan Building…had towered above its neighbors like a “small red mountain.”

But with Minneapolis in the midst of the greatest urban renewal project in its history, the Metropolitan was about to come down, a victim of age, politics and ideology.”


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