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Minneapolis, D. G.

May 2024
1min read

John Philip Sousa and his seventyfive-piece band were brought to town to celebrate the building’s opening.

It can be done” was the motto of both the Foshay Company of Minneapolis and its founder, Wilbur B. Foshay. In 1896, as a boy of fifteen, he visited the nation’s capital with his father, there to be deeply impressed with the simple but powerful design of the Washington Monument. So moved was Foshay by the sight that when it came to celebrating his success as a founder of a vast empire of public utilities, banks, newspapers, and miscellaneous industries, he decided to erect his own monument in the contemporary mode: that is, an office building.

“It can be done” and it was. Seen at near right, about a year before the building’s completion in August of 1929, the tapering walls of the Foshay Building soared 447 feet to become the first skyscraper west of Chicago. Foshay was proud of his name—he traced his ancestry back to Joseph Fouché, minister of police under Napoleon—and it blazed from all four sides of his building in letters ten feet tall.

Opening ceremonies for the building lasted three days, during which John Philip Sousa and his seventy-five-piece band played seven concerts. But even as fireworks exploded into the sky and twenty-five thousand onlookers cheered, trouble was brewing.

It wasn’t just the stock-market crash, two months later, that did Foshay in. He was also under investigation for using the mails for the fraudulent sale of securities. His enterprises went into receivership and he spent three years imprisoned in Leavenworth, where he had the opportunity to recall that his company had a slogan as well as a motto: “For Over Eleven Years—All Your Money—All the Time—On Time.” He died in 1957.

Foshay may have often promised more than he could deliver, but his building still stands proud—a prime business address—against today’s glass-towered Minneapolis skyline.

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