Back in the good old days, before the banks began plastering their bland digital clocks in every strip-mall parking lot from Burnsville to Coon Rapids, the public clock was a stylish thing. It was designed to be appreciated by pedestrians rather than speeding motorists; thus form was given its proper place beside function. None of the old clocks remaining in the Twin Cities is more alluring than the muscular black steel timepiece that juts out from the northwest corner of the Soo Line Building in downtown Minneapolis. Installed sometime in the mid-Twenties (nobody seems to be quite sure when), it sits just ten feet above street level, allowing for comfortable study of its virtues. In shape the clock resembles an oversized Jules Verne-style diving helmet with four spare but classic faces, one on each side. According to Amy Lucas of the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission, executives with the Canadian Pacific Railroad expressed an interest in taking the clock to their Alberta headquarters after they sold the building a few years ago. Following a quick round of discussions--and city officials' gentle reminder that the structure is protected by historic designation--the Canadian Pacific honchos agreed to leave the clock right where it belongs.


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