What A Find!

No longer a Depot it is still an architectural gem worth seeing.

I love vacation!  I realize that’s kind of an understatement and I’m not shocking anyone by making such an admission.  But vacation usually means an opportunity to experiencing something new or see something I would otherwise never see.  As the early riser in a family of late sleepers, and an architectural junkie to boot I took full advantage of our stop in Red Wing, Minnesota, to go in search of what treasures might lie in wait for me to discover.

The St. James Hotel is the beautiful four story brick building at the end of the block.

And I did not have to look far as we chose to stay in the historic St. James Hotel in a room overlooking the Mississippi River.

Down to the lobby for the mandatory pot…I mean cup of complimentary coffee and a chance to read the news from the local Pioneer Press amidst the stunning ambiance of the Reading Room decked out in solid wood paneling from floor to ceiling.With a cup of coffee to go it was time to hit the streets and see what this modest town of 16,500 residents has to offer.  It is, without question, a community that has taken great pride in maintaining the integrity of its historic character and made significant efforts at keeping a vibrant downtown intact.  Like most older cities you can’t go far without seeing a vacant tenant space.  Red Wing, MN is no different.  However, there is an obvious effort at making sure that the condition of the beautiful buildings are not allowed deteriorate and become a blight on the whole neighborhood.  From the well-kept buildings to the multitude of hanging baskets filled with color at every light pole down the street, to the investment in parks and maintenance of the boulevard this is a place not afraid to display their pride in the place they call home.

Beautifully Restored and Maintained Depot of Red Wing. That's the St. James towering in the background.

Even the upkeep on the old Railroad Depot, now home to the Visitor’s Center, positioned right on the banks of the Mississippi, is a must-see attraction.

But the building that most caught my eye on this early morning adventure was the         T.B. Sheldon Memorial Theatre.

Built as a result of the generous donation of, you guessed it, T.B. Sheldon, to the people of Red Wing, this building stands out as one of the hidden gems of Red Wing.  Upon his death, T.B. Sheldon left $83,000 to the City of Red Wing with the only stipulation being that it be used to build a civic facility for the benefit of all the people of the City.  It is indeed a confident man who can leave such a sum in the hands of others without knowing how it would turn out.  T.B. Sheldon  is, undoubtably, happy with the results.  Like most other facilities of with this many years under its belt, the theatre has seen its ups and downs and, at one point, nearly met its demise due to lack of use and poor upkeep.  But in the early 1980’s an effort was made to save this gemfrom destruction through donations and fund-raisers totalling over $3.8 Million.  In 1986, the theatre re-opened and has been in continual operation since.

Plush seating and drapes, the curve of the balcony, the sconces...it's all there.

Of course, being the junkie I am I was sure to walk the perimeter to check out all the details (and to see if I could find a door left unlocked for a chance to see the interior).  You realize, back when this was constructed in the early 1900’s they built four-sided buildings so there is architectural detailing to be found even in the back by the loading dock.  Today’s buildings, more often than not, you are likely to find vinyl siding or used tissues cladding the backsides of buildings.  Thankfully not here.

This is where you sat if you wanted to be seen.

Though I was unable to get inside right away I did drag the loving family back to this theatre after breakfast and was lucky enough to find the box office open hosted by a gracious tour guide who were more than willing to allow us to step inside, turn on all the lights, and see this “Jewel Box” first hand.  I can’t thank them enough for their willingness to feed my curiosity.  I hope you enjoy it as well.

You couldn't build this single column, capital, and arch for $83,000 in today's construction market.

Today this would be drywall with corner bead and painted ONE color!

Following the Curved Staircase to your balcony seat Ma'am.

No Acoustic Ceiling Tile slapped into place in this Foyer.

Find a client willing to commission THIS kind of work in today's market

About scotthaz

I love the creative process of Architecture (and tolerate the administrative end of the process), golf as often as my family will allow, and enjoy nature photography.
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