This is the week of the Office Refresh! or Reset or any word you wish to use to indicate a generallly accepted idea that people, for the most part, could think that they might consider coming to the office more.

The picture above was last Friday. It was brighter and more populated today, but it'll be like this tomorrow. To be fair, I've seen more traffic in the skyways lately, and not just at noon. The population seems to be younger, with lots of people moving in groups of two or three, casually attired - tech, I assume. The entire dress code of downtown has shifted downwards. There was once a population of men in suits who moved through the skyways on Errands of Money.

COVID fallout > 9/11 fallout, right?

Wider ranging and more lasting.

But! We were given huge StarTribune-branded water jugs AND a Homer Hankie to cheer on the Twins. I wonder whether I will be able to pick up the jug tomorrow, since I janked my arm something wretched. I've had right-arm fubu for a long time, thanks to typing, and it flares up from time to time and makes the gym a bit more trying. Today I switched to barbells from free weights for a certain type of exercise, but today decided to give the ol' dumbbells another go. Ah, this is fine, I can do this! Let us lift with extra zeal! <drsmith_voice>OH THE PAIN THE PAIN </drsmith_voice> I asked the Sole Remaining Gym Gal what she recommended, and she said, without a second's hesitation, CBD.

Well. Wife said she had some. In the bathroom, middle drawer. Okay, hop upstairs -

And here I confronted the reality of Female Drawer Composition, which is a remarkable assortment of unguents and emollients and tubes and vials. I found it, and so far it seems to be working, but to be honest I took a pain pill and slathered on the cold-hot stuff, even though I know it's useless. I'm sure Lidocaine works for something, but the whole point seems to be "here's a different sensation to take your mind off the initial sensation."

And now, our weekly internet peregrination, as we go . . .

  How do we get from the here, a building detail . . .

To there?



A patron of the site sent along some postcards, including this broad-shouldered monster from Houston. From the era of Mountain Range Office Towers.

The City National Bank. I’m fascinated by buildings of this era - the sheer heft of this creation, the unadorned top. Skyscrapers no longer clawed their way up, columns stacked on columns, floors on floors, culminating in a dome or a steeple, ending in a single point, a molecule where the building stopped. That blunt top is a statement. It’s for a world that has cast off the aspirational nature of the old romantic style, and finds new purpose in a machine-era ethos. It’s self-confident. It’s proto-technocratic. Wells wrote about Things to Come? Well, they’re here.

It’s the world of Alfred Finn, who helped design another Houston tower included in the packet of cards.

The Gulf Building. Wikipedia notes:

Designed by architects Alfred C. Finn, Kenneth Franzheim, and J. E. R. Carpenter the building is seen as a realization of Eliel Saarinen's second-place-but-acclaimed entry in the Chicago Tribune Tower competition.

Really? Citation needed, and all that. Oh - a footnote. Let’s see.

“The architects utilized Eliel Saarinen's stepped profile design, which diminishes in volume as it rises.”

Well . . . the set-backs were part of the style by 1929, and hardly unique to Saarinen. There’s nothing in the linked piece that says it’s a realization of the design.

Anyway. The Interior of the Gulf.

To be honest, I’ve always found the Saarinen entry unnerving in ways I can’t quite express. It’s aloof and remote and something about it just seems off. It’s a great building, and much more avant garde than the winner, but the Trib Tower will always be one of my favorites.

Anyway. Another card, a building constructed three years earlier:

The Petroleum Building, originally the Texas Company building. My dad was a Texaco man, so I have a certain affinity for the brand, but the building - despite its “Mayan” decorations up top - is blocky and uninteresting. It’s also one of those buildings with an exposed backside, like someone in a hospital gown whose straps became untied.

The last picture is the oldest, and it’s an example of what I was talking about at the top. The Esperson building, a pile of old classical ideas.

Actually, the Esperson Buildings. This wikipedia section may cause slight brain injury.

Mellie Esperson had the first of the two buildings constructed for her husband, Niels, a real estate and oil tycoon. His name is carved on the side of the building, above the entrance, in large letters. The name "Mellie Esperson" is carved on the accompanying structure, known as the Mellie Esperson building, although that structure is only a nineteen-story annex to the original Esperson building; thus is the newer of both buildings and it is not as tall. Also

That’s okay, you can stop there.

The names:

She built it to honor her dead husband. Niels was a wildcatter, his fortunes rising and falling, striking out on deep drills, then hitting it rich on another. Died in 1922 after an operation.

The Wikipedia page says it was designed by John Eberson, a noted theater designer. But a 1955 newspaper story says Harry Weaver was the architect. Yes and no. Not the architect, but the resident architect, an assistant.

Weaver was in the news because his wife was blown up by a car bomb.

His son-in-law was arrested, and the trial took 5 days. He got life. The verdict was overturned the nextyear , and retried in 1957. He got life.

He was paroled in 1975. There’s a marriage notice for a Harry L. Washburn in 1977 - it’s him, the age checks out - then nothing.

And that’s where I stopped. Until I noted something else!

The wikipedia page also notes that the top was used for a Bollywood movie Silf Bar. Well:

The comments are full of Indian guys sighing over their bygone schooldays in the 90s.












Our second pass. Last week was a bit dispiriting.

I actually like this. The faded paint gives it a certain look we associate with old buildings that aged well into the end days of their century.

Subsequent. Alas.

Ach, it gets worse.


Big stompy block descends and pounds its legs into the earth with petulant fury

The Chronos School of Architecture.


Ah! Yes! And also, NO

Impressive old pile, and it looks as if it got a 50s renovation that was later carved up to modern tastes. The disconnect is regrettable.

Well, someone’s doing work, so I guess . . . that’s nice

That is a serious, strenuous rehab, and I’d bet it was for a men’s store. You walked in, you smelled leather polish and Brut.

It has a condition now.

Gee, you wonder if they’ll ever take it off and show us what was beneath.


That's incredible. Also, my God, that stupid door.

Diana. A women’s store, once. Long ago. No more. Not ever again.

The building on the right makes you cock an eyebrow: okay obviously the ground floor was rehabbed, but what’s going on with the top? The arches, the oculi.

The Oddfellows really wanted the ground floor to accommodate stilt-walkers, didn’t they?



Those windows are waaaaay too jittery, but that’s okay.

That string course on the first floor looks like 1910, which is too early for the windows. So it got an overhaul in the 30s, I'd say. Or guess.

Okay, it’s not the most elegant extension, but it’s consistent.

1911. Ornate and confident and good.

Another fine Roman embassy.

Looks like it's being seiged by an alien race of trash-bin Daleks.

Once upon a time.

Still here as a reminder, or remonstration.

A reminder that a slavish adherence to tradition can still result in a misfire.

But a charming one, in its own, earnest and slightly inept way.

Finally: Oh, the galas that must have played out on the top floor, with the glories of Petersburg glittering below beyond the windows.

The Petersburg Hotel, built in 1915, when the best was still ahead. And, of course, the worst.



Now two ways to chip in!

That should hold you until tomorrow. Now go check in. Free TV!




blog comments powered by Disqus