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When big downtown Minneapolis buildings change names, it can be a confusing mess

October 12, 2018

It would be difficult to think of the IDS as anything else.

It would be like calling the Empire State Building the Kong Plaza, or the Chrysler Building rebranded as 1 Pointe Centre, or the Sears Tower renamed something dumb, like Willis.

If the IDS were renamed, everyone would still call it the IDS. (See also, Willis Tower, Sears, new name of.)

Longtime residents get stubborn about these things. We may say the new name when giving directions, but wed think the old name.

Eventually, some people would use the new name, but only the younger people who didnt grow up with the old name. Or the older people who just moved here, and outed themselves as non-natives at a dinner party by casually calling the IDS by its new name.

When it comes to buildings, especially big downtown buildings, name changes can be more than annoying, they can be downright confusing. (Take our quiz here.)

In the early days of the skyscraper era, the buildings were advertisements for the companies that commissioned them. But even back then, not all buildings got lasting names. In New Yorks 1920s building boom, for example, some towers were built on spec. They often got a street number for a name.

Weve seen a lot of numbers as names in the Twin Cities, as name changes. The volatile real estate market means names come and go. Tenants change, and new owners want to tell the world they own the joint (or at least part of it).

So you have to adjust and learn the new name, eventually.

But a little piece of history is lost when a buildings name changes.

Some names in downtown Minneapolis have stood the test of time the Lumber Exchange, the Grain Exchange, the Plymouth Building. Others have changed names so many times we cant keep track of what theyre called now and weve forgotten what they used to be called.

On the corner of Hennepin Avenue and 8th Street, youll find an eight-story tower whose name expressed a good deal of bygone business history. On the west side, theres 800 Hennepin, originally called the Pence Building, after its main tenant. It was an auto supply company, back in the days when the upper part of Hennepin was Auto Row. In the middle of the century it sported a rooftop sign for Gamble-Skogmo, a variety retailer that vanished in the 1980s. Most recently it was known for its ad-agency tenant. Now its just a number.

Some may grind their teeth when someone calls the two-tower white skyscraper by City Hall the U.S. Bank Plaza. It used to be the Pillsbury Center. Thats true. But a no-name structure at the corner of 6th Street and 2nd Avenue S. was once called the Pillsbury Building. Before that, it was called something else.

Theres only one way to make sure no one changes the name of a building, and thats Wilburs way: Put your name at the top, carved deep into the stone, on all four sides of the building. Light it up at night and that name will be burned into everyones memory.

Wilbur as in Foshay.

No one will ever call his art deco monument anything but the Foshay.

Well, OK. The buildings new name is W Minneapolis The Foshay. Good luck getting anyone to call it that.

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