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At 486 feet Wirt Rowland's Guardian Building still stands tall

Union Trust Building which we now know simply as the Guardian Building, was completed in March of 1929. When the building opened, all three major papers ran special commemorative sections. This was the second building built for the Union Trust – the first was a Beaux-Arts structure built in 1896 by Donaldson & Meier where the Chase Tower stands today.

Semi-dome in Pewabic Tile

This historic structure came from the desk of Wirt C. Rowland, where the repeating motif of 30, 60 and 90 degrees of the notched arch design was found in window grilles, mosaics, doors, furnishings, tableware and even staff uniforms, and became the Guardian Building’s signature. In his book, The Guardian Building, Jim Tottis tells us, “unification of design, harmonization of color and use of uncommon building materials were all of Rowland’s inspiration.” Rowland began his design of the Guardian Building in 1927, and broke ground the same year. The building was dedicated on April 4, 1929. At a height of 486 feet, it was the second tallest building in the city. It sits on a plot 80’ x 270’ – the width taking up an entire city block. It’s original cost to build was $12 million. (If those were today’s dollars, the cost would come to: $151,299,417.81!)

Corrado Parducci's Safety and Security

Mary Chase Perry Stratton developed her glazes based on Rowland’s pencil sketches and above the main entry Stratton designed a figure with outstretched arms as a symbol of progress and prosperity. Flanking her semi-dome, Corrado Parducci modeled the multistoried figures guarding the entrance. Safety, holding the sword and Security, holding the key are massive yet the figures almost go un-noticed as they are literally projected from the buff colored Mankato stone.

Another of Parducci's exterior details. Notice the "wings" are actually stylized eagles.

Stay tuned… tomorrow we head to the interior!

Photos (c) 2005 – 2011 Jack P. Johnson and Jennifer Baross

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