On June 23, 1962, golf ball-size hail rained down on the glass dome of Como Park’s Conservatory in St. Paul. Glass panels shattered sending shards falling on the visitors below who had sought shelter from the storm. By the end the Conservatory, built in 1915, looked like a war zone. The hail had damaged rare and valuable plants and the gardens were forced to close for the first time ever.
After the storm, gardeners tending the injured plants were forced to wear protective helmets as glass pieces continued to fall. $75,000 in emergency funding had to be secured and the glass panels were replaced with fiberglass. The Conservatory re-opened four months later.
By 1974 the constant sun and weather had clouded the fiberglass panels, depriving the plants below of sunlight. While the Conservatory was placed on the National Register of Historic Places that year, it was in desperate need of repair.
It wasn’t until 1987 that major renovations to the Conservatory began, including replacing all the glass. Those renovations weren’t finished until 1992, 30 years after that hailstorm riddled holes in one of St. Paul’s greatest attractions.
[You can learn more about the history of Como Park and the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in the book The Jewel of Como.]
On Saturday I posted the Downtown St. Paul Art Map on Start Seeing Art. It’s a free, printable, 7-page PDF map that features outdoor sculptures and murals in the downtown area.
I’m intentionally putting it out just before the Republican National Convention comes to town. Hopefully it will draw some attention to some of the amazing public artwork we have in the Twin Cities. The map itself isn’t very pretty (I’m no designer, and I didn’t even try to be), but it does include 85 works of art and pictures of each one (OK, 84 pictures. One sculpture is supposed to be placed any day now and I don’t have a picture of it).
Continue reading Start Seeing Art’s Downtown St. Paul Art Map →
Heard a story on NPR today about St. Paul being in the spotlight for the Republican National Convention. The part of the story that stuck out to me was when Erin Dady, director of marketing for the City of St. Paul, made this assumption about the national media:
“I would guess a significant percentage of the 15,000 members of the media who are coming to town couldn’t even locate St. Paul on a map,” she says. “So, what better way to tell our story to the world than to have 15,000 members of the media here in town? It’s really priceless media attention.”
Maybe Dady has some research to back up that assumption (in which case, why not use the research instead of speculating?) or maybe she’s referring to the fact that national reporters seem unable to distinguish St. Paul and Minneapolis (though that has little to do with locating St. Paul on a map)—I don’t know. But however you spin it, it seems like a really dumb idea for the marketing director of St. Paul to insult the intelligence of 15,000 journalists who are about to descend on our city.
I recently heard that the stairway on Wabasha Street that climbs the bluffs on St. Paul’s West Side was being torn down. The stairway, built in 1916 and known as the Green Stariway, suffered damage when a massive limestone rock fell 80 feet from the top of the bluff and slammed into the stairway. Due to structural damage the stairway was closed and removed.
It’s sad to see such an iconic and convenient stairway go.
It’s the latest addition to the “crumbling infrastructure” line politicians are pitching right now (6 bridges in Minnesota are closed or restricted right now). But what’s funny is that city engineers have been requesting funding to replace the bridge for 20 years. Annual maintenance on the stairway has cost $16,000 per year and in 2007 approximately $60,000 was spend for maintenance rehabilitation. There’s currently a funding request being considered to rebuild the stairway for $2 million.
Those are some pricey stairs.