20th Century, Americana, Architecture, Business, Energy, History, Minnesota, Uncategorized

Foshay Tower

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1929
Wilbur B. Foshay builds a 32-floor headquarters for his utilities empire in downtown Minneapolis. The Foshay Tower is the tallest building in Minnesota for half a century.
The stock market crash, scarcely a month after the tower’s dedication, puts an end to Foshay’s fortune and the giddy speculation of the 1920s. The next year, the tower is put on the auction block. There are no buyers.*

Foshay was a vigorous young man who started as a gas pipefitter and electrician. By 1916, he worked his way up to owning a public utilities holding company. (A holding company is created to buy and possess the shares of other companies, which it then controls.) *** “By 1928, he was a prosperous man, at least on paper. His company owned utilities in thirty states, the then-territory of Alaska, Canada, and Central America.” **

“Foshay built the Foshay Tower in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which opened in August 1929. In 1932 he was convicted of conducting a “pyramid scheme” with shares of his own stock. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. President Franklin Roosevelt commuted 10 years from Foshay’s sentence, but Foshay only actually served three years in Leavenworth because of “good behavior.” President Harry Truman granted Foshay a full and unconditional pardon in 1947.” ****

What do You wish to say through Foshay’s tower story, Eternal Father? Let us listen and reflect with You, and more completely know Your heart. What is it that You affirm about this man and his age, and what is it that You wish to correct?

To begin, I see a man who started simply working hard in the field he loved; providing utilities. It seems to fit his character as an entrepreneur and a man of enthusiasm. Was it this same vitality that created the conditions for his downfall?

Like Foshay, we are drawn to play to our strengths, but sometimes are blinded by our own glory. We lose our ability to harness our zeal, and do not operate with the self- control required to better use our giftings. Will You forgive Foshay the excesses of his spiritedness against Your will? Will You forgive us where we resist You today, not yielding an inch to be called out of the comforts of our best attributes if it means humbling ourselves before You or others?

Conversely, will You forgive the judgements of Foshay’s detractors? Will You forgive any jealousies of his competitors in public utilities? Will You forgive those who modeled or endorsed the corrupt practices of his “pyramid scheme”?

All of us, high to low, have fallen prey to greed at some level. Men like Foshay inflate the value of their stock, bankers and politicians hide debt by devaluing currency, and the poor commit fraud against all kinds of social services overdrawing on the charity of society. We have negated fair rules and have sought a deck stacked for us and against our neighbor; have mercy!

All of us, low to high, have taken the bait of envy. We have made ourselves look better than we really are, and have underscored the flaws of our equals to get ahead. Will You forgive us this debt to give honor back to our peers? Will You forgive our lack of gratitude for our competitors, or the awareness that You have uniquely positioned them (by Your wisdom) in our lives?

Regardless of internal motives, we acknowledge the work of Mr. Foshay, and the iconic tower still bearing his name. We are grateful that You understand us: whether we build empires with bad hearts, or have a poor work ethic with good hearts. We honor Your acceptance as the highest tower over our city. You are the Master Builder. Amen!

And then he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I’ll store all my grain and goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat drink and be merry.” ‘
But G-d said to him, ‘You fool! this very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward G-d.” ***** Luke 12:16-21 NIV

* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
** An excellent summary of Foshay’s life by Britt Aamodt. http://www.mnopedia.org/person/foshay-wilbur-1881-1957
*** https://www.bing.com/search?q=definition+of+holding+company&form=APMCS1&PC=APMC
**** Excerpt from the Salida, Colorado museum where Foshay palyed a key role in the Chamber of Commerce after pardon. https://salidamuseum.org/history/wibur-foshay/
***** http://biblehub.com/context/luke/12-16.htm

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20th Century, Architecture, History, Intercession, Minnesota

Sullivan’s Owatonna Bank Opens

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1908
Master architect Louis Sullivan’s National Farmers’ Bank, perhaps the most famous small-town bank in the U.S., graces the corner of Broadway and Cedar streets in downtown Owatonna.

One of the first American architects to break free from the influence of revival styles, Louis Sullivan completed a series of eight banks in small Midwest towns during the last years of his career. The National Farmers’ Bank of Owatonna is arguably the best.*

In 1896, in an article in “Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine”, Mr. Sullivan wrote the following:
“It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human, and all things super-human, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law.”

It makes me curious why an architect of his stature would embrace the job of designing a small town bank. Just look at this track record. He is called both the “father of modernism” and the “father of skyscrapers”. He is one of the triumvirate of great American architects alongside Frank Lloyd Wright and Henry Hobson Richardson.**
What would behoove him to design a small town bank in Minnesota?

A clue could be that he was considered to be a hard drinker and past his prime by the time he accepted this task. His client, Carl Bennett, had also died to his dream of being a conductor to attend family duties running the bank. Perhaps this serendipitous meeting fulfilled a need for both men to create again. It’s success does seem to be a merger of each as it is labelled as a “Symphony of Color”.***

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Merciful Messiah, thank You for their dreams. Thank You that, though deferred, they created an everyday temple to commerce that stills sings! Thank You for positioning their relationship and life circumstances to better enable them to savor the moment.

Will You continue to bless the artist and architects of Minnesota? Will You give them the talent that bedazzles the routines of our lives? Will You give our lives form that follows function, and let us trust that that’s enough?

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
**https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Sullivan
***http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/200002/28_buzenbergb_owatonna/

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