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Cass Gilbert: Life & Work in a Changing Region

  • Dates: 11 – 11 Aug, 2017
  • Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States
  • Address: Cass Gilbert Library (Rm. 317A),75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd.
Lecture given by SAH Member Kate Solomonson

When Minnesota’s State Capitol opened in 1905, it was praised as the very embodiment of the triumph of civilization in the west. Recently, the building's restoration has surfaced new questions and concerns about whose histories are represented through the building and its art, and how. This makes it all the more important to turn back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to understand the conditions and values that inform the building’s design. This lecture considers these issues through the lens of the life and work of its architect, Cass Gilbert. The capitol was Gilbert’s first major public commission. How was he equipped to take on such a challenge? How did his earlier work relate to the capitol’s design? As western territories were colonized, promotional publications presented architecture--especially architect designed buildings--as both the beacon of civilization and the means and measure of its progress. The buildings Gilbert designed--from houses and churches, to commercial blocks and railroad stations, to the Capitol itself—contributed in both tangible and subtle ways to the ongoing social, cultural, economic, and political transformation of St. Paul and the Northwest. A note to Gilbertians: The lecture will include Gilbert’s first public structure, which was quite a spectacle in 1883.

You can also see two excellent exhibitions in and near the Cass Gilbert Library: “The Life and Works of Cass Gilbert,” organized by the Cass Gilbert Society, and “Why Treaties Matter: Self-Government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nation.”
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SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Fund at The Chicago Community Foundation for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N. Astor Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610
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