Helps readers solve the riddle of Milwaukee Road

Two weeks ago, I asked for help answering this question: When did the top of the Milwaukee Road Depot tower disappear?

The generally accepted date, according to Wikipedia, is 1941, after the building was destroyed by winds. But after a bit of searching, I couldn’t find the date. It seemed a bit vague.

Many thanks to the many readers who have called, texted, and emailed me about more than just the fate of the tower. We now know more about the rich history of the dome we once loved.

Several readers wrote to say that prior to the windstorm of 1941, the tower suffered a fire, specifically on May 1, 1938. According to the Minneapolis Star, the fire “failed to compel Mrs. Alice Riggs, 2537 33 S. Street. The keyboard is on the third floor below a room scheme, where the fire started. She was dressed as a firefighter and held her position.”

The fire was “quickly extinguished,” and although it caused $5,000 in damage, it wasn’t the reason the tower lost its top.

Eric Johnson, keen on historic building permit routes, found references to the tower in the archives of Hennepin County Library. According to Card No. 303, “American Lbr. & Wrgs. Co.” I got a permit to lower the top on “Passage. Depot” for a total of $2,000. The permit was issued on May 12, 1941.

Tom Murphy did some research himself, using variations of the Milwaukee road name, and found a story from the May 29, 1941, Minneapolis Morning Tribune:

For travelers heading north on Third Avenue S., who have been wondering what’s wrong with the ring horizon, this is the answer. The top of the tower at Milwaukee Station has been cut down, and is being replaced. The old ornate copper top, backed with wood, has been banished. Because of the weather since 1898, and rotting of the wood has also made it unsafe.”

The story goes on to name some of the men who helped bring it down. Jane Norton, Ted Teacher and Frank Rogers on top of the tower at work.

There is another old photo of the tower, from the June 17, 1941 edition of the Minneapolis Star. It shows the tower as it is today, without a dome.

Sadly, the photo accompanies a story about Ted Teicher’s steeple falling 35 feet to his death while working on the tower.

“The fall occurred when a rope supporting the Buzan seat broke in the air, through which it could raise or lower itself, as it was hanging below the top of the tower,” according to the star.

We now know that the tower was shaved off most likely because the top of it was rickety, not because of the wind, although a good storm in 1941 may have precipitated its end. We also know that a man lost his life removing what was left of the top.

The story goes that Tischer repaired the flagpole high above City Hall a few days before he fell for a warehouse job.

If the City Hall Tower ever collapsed, there should be no ambiguity as to exactly when it happened. At least not for 100 years or so.

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