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Answer Man: Bronze doors part of Plummer Building? Not so fast

The big bronze doors that lead into the Plummer Building are, according to one reader, not really a part of the Plummer. Rather, they are part of a separate structure attached to the building.

Dear Answer Man, a minor correction: The entrance between the Plummer Building and the Siebens Building (and formerly the 1914 Building) is not really part of the Plummer Building. -- Paul Scanlon

Now wait a doggone second. The Post-Bulletin and the rest of the world has been referring to those big bronze doors as being the entrance to the Plummer Building forever. I'll refer you to countless news stories in our archives, TV video on the big bronze doors, etc.

Just last week, in wrapping up the tale of Dr. Charles Mayo'sfuneral 75 years ago in May, I told of how his casket was carried in through the doors of the Plummer Building, then through a hallway into the adjacent 1914 Building, which was demolished in 1986 to make way for the Siebens.

But Dr. Scanlon, who has worked at Mayo for a long time, as did his father, shared this architectural fact:

"Although (the entrance) was constructed at the same time as the Plummer in 1926-28, it is a separate, attached structure. It rose up only three floors (and later was connected to the fourth floor also) and has always, to my knowledge, been called 'the connecting link' (between the Plummer and 1914 Building, and now to Siebens)."


I don't know what to say about this. If it was designed and built at the same time, is built of the same materials, functions as a ceremonial entrance (and really the only public entrance) to the Plummer Building and forever has been known as such, I would think it quacks like a duck and should be considered part of Plummer.

Here's something you probably didn't know. The Plummer was built in 1926-28, immediately before the Great Depression — and assuming the Mayo Foundation didn't pay cash, it was an unfortunate time to be building a huge landmark, as Wilbur Foshay discovered in Minneapolis — but it was originally known as the Mayo Clinic building. When did it take the name of the doctor who helped design it, Henry Plummer, who died in 1937?

I have a call into the clinic and expect a carefully parsed response at some time in the future, but I checked a lot of references and it appears the building was called the "New Clinic" building for a number of years after it opened — certainly through the death of the Mayo brothers in 1939 — and postcards from the 1940s simply call it Mayo Clinic.

My best guess is that when the Mayo Building was completed nearby in 1955, the older building got the Plummer name.

And here's one more piece of pertinent Plummer information, from well-informed Answer Man reader Dana Knaak:

"One of the reasons Dr. Charlie's public visitation was in the 1914 Building is that he was born on that site."

Dana's referring to W.W. Mayo's first home in Rochester, which was on the site and demolished to make room for the 1914 Building , which was known as the "first Mayo Clinic building" for many years.

By the way, W.W. Mayo died in 1911 and Dr. Plummer was his attending physician. A year later, the house across the street from the Kahler Hotel was demolished and construction began on what became the 1914 Building.


More on Baron Ochs' brick works

In my simply superb Saturday column , a reader asked what the initials A.C.O. are for on the brick silo at the History Center of Olmsted County. I reported, quite correctly, that they were the initials for A.C. Ochs and his long-ago brick company in the New Ulm area.

That inspired this letter from an Answer Man fan, T. Smith, who says he or she "most always finds true enlightenment in your answers."

Well, that's a good start, but I'd prefer that you "always finds true enlightenment" in my answers. I'll keep trying.

"Having grown up in Springfield, Minn.," T. writes, "I would like to pass on the following to you. Ochs Brick and Tile was one of the major employers in Springfield, with a huge plant that produced brick and tile products. The dome-shaped kilns stretched for several blocks, and clay found nearby the brick plant was mined for the company, and this pit resulted in a great fishing spot for us kids.

"The bricks that were manufactured in Springfield by the A.C. Ochs Co. were highly sought after and were used in many of the state university buildings across the state."

Because it's the Fourth

Here's a note from Clayton Stowe, of Rochester, which he asked me to publish today:


"The American flag doesn't wave because of the wind blowing, but from the breath of our soldiers' last breath."

Thank you, Clayton. Happy Fourth to all.

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