Wind clips St. Paul building's awnings

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- The annual spring blossoms on a historic downtown building might be gone for good.

Each April for 50 years, workers installed more than 200 burnt-orange awnings on the west side of the Hamm Building at Sixth and St. Peter streets.

But last year, they put awnings only on the first of the building's six floors. And they did the same again this year.

Building managers fear the Venturi Effect, the winds that pick up speed when funneled along canyon-like downtown streets


About two years ago, the 12-story Lawson Commons building was finished down the street. It appears to have changed the way wind moves down St. Peter.

On May 24, 2000, wind gusts of at least 35 mph on the street peeled awnings away from the Hamm Building. That hadn't happened before except in severe storms.

"The metal supports (which hold up the awnings) were ripped right from their brackets," said Kristel Hansen, who manages the building for its owner, the Markham Co. of St. Paul.

The situation became so hazardous to pedestrians and vehicles below that all the awnings, except those sheltering the building's ground-floor shops, were removed.

Hansen said the Markham Co. is studying whether the awnings, which remain in storage, can be reinforced to make them more resistant to the wind.

Meanwhile, the company has installed Venetian blinds on the building.

"A lot of people, including myself, feel bad that the awnings aren't up," Hansen said. "They're a wonderful feature of the building."

Asked whether it's realistic to think that the awnings might one day return, she said: "We're still studying the situation, but you can never say never."

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