Best Old Building - 2011
The Pioneer Building
Urban renewal in the 1950s and '60s annihilated so many of the Twin Cities' most awe-inspiring buildings that the continued existence of a structure like the Pioneer Building—listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974—is some kind of miracle. St. Paul's first skyscraper, built in 1889, when the sky was only a dozen stories up, is an unusual, relatively low-key cornerstone of the capital city, a remnant of the time when it was still considered a frontier town. Since its completion, the Pioneer Building was given an additional four stories in 1909 and attached to the neighboring Endicott building in the 1940s, but its character is pure 19th century, featuring a fantastically ornate, granite-flanked entryway and some of the most beautifully preserved exterior brickwork in the metro. The interior is no less impressive. The naturally lit atrium, home to the first glass elevator in the nation, is topped with a looming skylight and provides a stunning vertical view. Both the Pioneer and the Endicott have been empty since 2007, but a proposed residential/commercial renovation may see tenants filling this majestic building once more.