David Gebhard Award

Gebhard Winners Announced

Gebhard winners bring little-known stories of architectural history to light

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Minneapolis-St. Paul 5/21/2020)

Trailer parks, a reinvented library, an unrecognized female architect, and a lost Minneapolis landmark reveal fascinating stories about the Minnesota built environment that could easily be overlooked. These were topics explored by four architectural historians who recently received the Gebhard Award, a biannual recognition of Minnesota architectural history research by the Minnesota Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (MNSAH).

Emma Brunson, an architect who left her mark on many neighborhoods in St. Paul from 1924 to 1940, has been largely unrecognized until now. Diane Trout-Oertel tells her story in “Emma F. Brunson: The First Woman Registered as an Architect in Minnesota,” published in 2017 in Ramsey County History and winner in the Gebhard Awards Articles Category. Of the 20 houses she designed, all but one is still occupied and valued by owners, many of whom Trout-Oertel interviewed. She describes the interiors as featuring “hardwood floors, generous woodwork, and built-in components . . . Almost every house had a mail slot, a telephone niche, and a laundry chute.”

The story of Hilltop, a small city in the southern end of Anoka County, is the focus of “The Trailer Park that Became a City,” by Eduard Krakhmalnikov, published in Minnesota History in 2018. “Hilltop’s story is one of taking a stand – the periphery protecting itself against suburban sprawl,” writes Krakhmalnikov. “Today, the 250 mobile homes in Hilltop are reminders of an American built environment whose heritage is in peril, a story that has at best only been intermittently examined.” The article received an honorable mention in the Articles Category.

Metropolitan Dreams, by Larry Millett, the winner in the Books Category, exposes the details of the building and destruction of the Metropolitan Building, characterized by Millett as “perhaps the most inexcusable act of civic vandalism in the history of Minneapolis.” In an interview in the StarTribune, Millett says the building “occupies a unique place in the history of Minneapolis. It bookended the city’s first great period of growth in the 1880s, when the building went up, and urban renewal and freeway building era of the mid-1950s to mid-1960s, when it came down.” The book was published by the University of Minnesota Press. A neighborhood library whose history paints a rich picture of life in St. Paul since its beginning is the subject of Reinventing the People’s Library, by Greg Gaut, honorable mention in the Books Category. More than just a narrative about the architecture of a “Carnegie library,” the book gives a primer on St. Paul immigration history, background on public libraries in Minnesota, and a story of community involvement and cohesion. Now known as the East Side Freedom Library, which was also the publisher of Gaut’s book, the organization collects and preserves sources on labor, African-American and immigration history, and provides a space where people can share their stories. The East Side Freedom Library is “one of those places where the future is being created on a strong foundation of the past,” says Gaut.

The 2020 Gebhard Awards mark the twelfth time the awards have been made. Named in honor of the late David Stanley Gebhard, distinguished Minnesota-born architectural historian, the award recognizes the outstanding books and articles on Minnesota’s built environment published in the preceding two years. This year four books and twelve articles were submitted and reviewed by three judges. MNSAH is the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians.

For more information, contact Rolf Anderson, president of MNSAH, at 612-272-3415 or Rolf.Anderson@mnsah.org

See Past Winners of the Gebhard Award

Comments are closed