Foshay Tower Re-Opens as W Hotel

Starting tonight, the 10-foot-tall letters that spell out "FOSHAY" on top of the Foshay Tower will shine in downtown Minneapolis once again.  At 9:00 PM tonight, the name on one of Minneapolis' most famous downtown landmarks will light up on all four sides. Tomorrow, the building located at 821 Marquette Ave reopens as the 230-room W Hotel.

The letters, situated at the 30th floor, were turned off in November of 2006 as renovations of the building began.  All previous occupants except for the beloved Key’s Café have moved since then. 

Modeled after the Washington Monument, the Foshay Tower was completed in 1929 in the months before “Black Monday” in October of that year. It stands 447 feet high, plus an antenna mast that extends the total height of the structure to 607 feet. When it was constructed, it was the tallest building and the first skyscraper of Minneapolis.  It was dethroned in 1972 by the construction of the IDS Center. It remains one of the tallest concrete skyscrapers to this day, second only in height to the Empire State Building. The Foshay Tower was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

I found an interesting story regarding the construction of the Foshay Tower and its history.  It seems that Foshay Tower was the lifelong dream and namesake of Wilbur Foshay, an art student turned businessman who bought and sold utilities companies in order to make his fortune. He had planned to locate his business and residence on the twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth floors where a three bedroom, three bath suite was built.  Foshay invited 25,000 guests to the dedication ceremony and provided all-expenses paid trips to many who included cabinet members, senators and congressmen.  Each guest received a gold pocket watch, there were 19-gun salutes, dancers and more.  It was a big “to do.”  Even John Philip Sousa conducted music for the event, including "Foshay Tower-Washington Memorial March" a march he wrote specifically for the occasion and for which Foshay presented him with a check for $20,000.

The march was only played once during Foshay's lifetime. Six weeks after the building's opening, the Great Depression began and Foshay's corporate empire crumbled. The check he had written to Sousa bounced. In retaliation, Sousa prohibited the playing of the march so long as Foshay's debt to him remained outstanding. Foshay never lived in his new home and he never heard the march again.  In 1999, a group of Minnesota investors repaid Foshay's debt to Sousa's estate, and the march was permitted to be played again.

Who would have ever known?

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