Foshay Tower in Minneapolis

Photo of Foshay Tower in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Foshay Tower in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Photo of Foshay Tower in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Foshay Tower in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Foshay Tower in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Foshay Tower in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Foshay Tower
Also known as:W Minneapolis - The Foshay

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One of the most beloved skyscrapers of the American Midwest, the Foshay Tower tells a tale of personal success and the failure of the American Dream. The building was the lifelong ambition of its namesake, Wilbur Foshay.

As a teen Foshay visited Washington, DC and marveled at the Washington Monument. He pledged that some day he would build a similar structure in his home state. That day came in 1929 when the Foshay Tower opened. Opening day was a three-day city-wide celebration. Dignitaries from across the country came to Minneapolis to see Foshay's limestone-clad masterpiece. He even managed to get John Philips Sousa to write a march that was played just once -- at the opening of Mister Foshay's tower.

The building is a tapered obelisk much like the monument in the nation's capital. His love for the building was demonstrated by the fact that his own home and office were on the 27th and 28th floors of the 32-story tower. Befitting a businessman of his stature, it was richly appointed with gold-plated bathroom fixtures, mahogany paneling, and balconies from which Foshay could survey the world around him.

Foshay got started in business in 1916 and managed to build his empire on just $6,000.00. Through a series of questionable financial dealings he managed to buy up utility companies and then make more money selling stock in his enterprise, the W.B. Foshay Company.

But Foshay's timing couldn't have been worse. Just months after his building opened, America was plunged into recession by the worst stock market crash in history. Foshay lost his tower. He lost his home. And in the ultimate indignity, his check to Sousa bounced. He was sent to prison in Kansas for mail fraud when the particulars of his paper empire were explored. After three years he got a presidential commutation, and eventually a pardon by 1947. He died in a nursing home in 1957.

To this day, though, the tower remains a monument to Wilbur Foshay. His name is a beacon in the night, glowing in ten foot tall letters from the top of the building that would be his greatest triumph. It remained the tallest building in Minneapolis until 1972 when the IDS building was erected.

Over the years, while the Foshay remained important to the Twin Cities, like all buildings it faced problems as it aged. By the time it was bought in 2006, only half of its offices were occupied.

The investment group spent $75 million renovating the Foshay Building into a hotel, opening it as the "W Minneapolis - The Foshay." In the process, workers uncovered previously unknown ornamentation that has been restored to its original grandeur.

Quick Facts
Statistics
  • Hotel rooms: 229
Timeline
  • 1977: Foshay Tower is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • August 13, 2008: The "W Minneapolis - The Foshay" hotel opens inside the Foshay tower.
Notes
  • Security guards report seeing an apparition in the form of a man's shadow that darts around corners. It is unknown if this is the ghost of Wilbur Foshay.
  • Sometimes the elevator that goes to the 30th floor will stop on its own. People joke that it is the ghost of Wilbur Foshay getting on.
Did You Know?
  • The base of the Foshay tower is 6,600 square feet, and the tower narrows to just 3,300 square feet by the time it reaches the observation deck.
Tourist Tips
  • Wilbur Foshay's office and boardroom are now the hotel's 27th floor bar.
  • There is a museum about the building on the 30th floor.
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Your Thoughts

There are 10 comments.

  John Andrus Brady. We share a ggg grandmother on your mother's side. I have a fair amount of family info. Carltnm@hotmail.com

Martha Carlton - Thursday, April 19th, 2012 @ 7:37pm  

  Growing up in St Cloud I always waned to visit the foshay Now that ie is a hotel I plan to stay there this spring

William Rudy - Sunday, November 9th, 2008 @ 5:15pm  

  Would like to contact anyone who knew my g'father R.Joel Andrus-Offices on the 4th floor of the Tower. His Co. Citizens Utilities, I believe. Many Thanks!

John Andrus Brady - Monday, October 6th, 2008 @ 1:46pm  

  I grew up in the Twin Cities, and I recall our annual Cub Scouts trip to the observation deck of the Foshay. This was long b4 the IDS Center, and the view was great. I have a question: A frined once told me there is another bldg somewhere in the US with the same design. He didn't know the location. Has anyone else heard this?

Greg Smith - Monday, October 9th, 2006 @ 12:35pm  

  I worked in the Foshay for several years. I often visited the museum at the top, as well as the storage area at the very peak, which was not accessible by elevator! It's true that empty elevators would often open up on your floor, with no one inside. One other interesting fact is that the bathrooms were located in the stairwells. The men's and women's were on alternate floors, so you had to walk up or down the stairs or take the elevator to use them.

Bill Upham - Thursday, September 8th, 2005 @ 1:25pm  

  Interesting! I collect clocks as a hobby,and a few years ago bought a small wind up clock .It is an advertising clock and has a picture of this tower along with the name of the company...here is what it says on the face of the clock.....'WB FOSHAY CO....INCORPORATED AUG 31-1917'...Now that i have found this page about it,it is much more interesting! Thank you,David

David Mullins - Friday, June 3rd, 2005 @ 12:32pm  

  Wilbur Foshay's marketing brochure also asserted that potentially "Aeroplanes" could taxi up to the two storey portion of the building to drop off or pick up passengers who were tenants at the building. Stating that the building could with stand winds up to 400 miles per hours was another strained marketing idea. Even though the building may represent the financial woes of the late 20's & early 30's, architectually it still has a loveable characteristic about it.

Chas. Knapton - Friday, March 18th, 2005 @ 12:42pm  

  The best, in my mind, as I grew up in Mpls when the Foshay Tower was the tallest bldg in Mpls.I now live in Madison, WI and we cannot have any bldgs in the down-town area larger than the capitol.

Joyce E Nolte (Gelschus) - Tuesday, June 15th, 2004 @ 1:01pm  

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