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West Hails East

Cass Gilbert in Minnesota

by Sharon Irish
Author Information
Spring 1993 (Volume 53, number 5 Pages 196-207)

Architect Cass Gilbert lived in Minnesota for twenty-six years and worked there for fifty. A park near the capitol in St. Paul and a University of Minnesota professorship bear his name. Free hats at the state fair have reproductions of Gilbert's capitol dome printed on them. His design plans are cited in modern reports on the future of St. Paul, and his ghost is invoked by local architecture critics. Yet Gilbert's ambition spurred him beyond the St. Paul houses, churches, and commercial buildings he designed in the 1880s and 1890s. Gilbert wanted a national reputation, and he set his sights early on New York City as the place to make his career.1

For Gilbert, St. Paul could provide the staging, but only New York offered the spotlight. Much of what he did backstage during his twenties and thirties was to develop a network of clients, colleagues, and contacts that would support his talents and enable him to move East with a good chance of success. Although he impressed many Minnesotans with his buildings and plans within the state, the audience Gilbert addressed was by the Hudson River, not the Mississippi. This is the story of how his years in Minnesota set the stage for his nationwide practice in New York City.

Cass was the middle of three sons, born in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1859 to Elizabeth Wheeler and Samuel A. Gilbert, a surveyor. (The Wheelers, longtime Zanesville residents, remained business connections for the mature architect.) Why Gilbert's family boarded a packet boat and traveled to St. Paul in 1868 is not known. Shortly after they arrived, Gilbert's father died, but the family remained. Cass attended school, and at age eighteen he began training with A. M. Radcliffe, an architect in St. Paul since 1858. A year and a half later, Gilbert briefly joined a party surveying for the Hudson and River Falls Railroad in Wisconsin and then moved in 1878 to Cambridge for further architectural study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).2

In the east Gilbert joined at least two other friends from Minnesota: James K. Taylor and Clarence H. Johnston. Taylor, the son of a St. Paul businessman, had attended the same school as Gilbert. Johnston, whose family had moved to the city shortly before Gilbert's, had also worked in Radcliffe's office. Johnston stayed at MIT only a few months before returning to St. Paul to become a draftsman for architect Edward P. Bassford and then moved on to Herter Brothers in New York City in 1881.3

Gilbert himself left MIT after just one year. Taylor remained at MIT for two years and then became a draftsman in the New York offices of Charles C. Haight and Bruce Price before returning home in 1882. All three young men were in St. Paul again by 1883.4

Gilbert's training was typical of his generation. Less than a half-dozen schools taught architecture, and, as one practitioner recalled: "There were no professional draftsmen. . . . The architects who had studied abroad could almost be numbered on the fingers of one hand.... [We] were a pretty poor profession, with few experienced builders to back up our ideas."5 Young people typically apprenticed with an older architect or builder and then started their own businesses. Few guidelines and even fewer regulations existed for architectural practice.

Recognizing these dilemmas with an increasing self-consciousness in the 1870s, architects began to define professional qualifications in their offices and fledgling schools. Practitioners served as mentors to young people with promise. A tour of Europe to study and sketch further boosted one's skill and status.

Accordingly, Gilbert used money from his father's estate and from his grandmother to fund a trip to England in hopes of landing a job in the office of a London architect. Upon arrival, Gilbert found no obvious chance for employment, and so he set out for the continent, sketching and writing long letters to his mother and Johnston. When Gilbert ran out of money in the summer of 1880, he returned to the States. 6

Never lacking opinions on any topic related to architecture, Gilbert had definite ideas about where he would and would not work. In September 1880 he landed a drafting position in the New York City offices of McKim, Mead, and White, one of the most up-and coming firms of the day. At the end of his career, Gilbert explained to his son that there must be "an esprit du [sic] corps.... When I was a draftsman there were certain offices I wouldn't have gone into, at any salary. For instance I preferred to stay with McKim, Mead and White at $20 a week than go to Herter Brothers or Burnham and Root's [in Chicago] for $60 and I had those offers from both."7

For two years Gilbert gained hands-on experience on the East Coast, overseeing the interiors of a yacht and the construction of the Ross Winans house in Baltimore. Although Gilbert worked closely with Stanford White, his mentor at the firm was William R. Mead. By August 1882, however, Gilbert wrote to Johnston: "I have been so long at McKim's and have in a certain way, ran the scale' in that office that I feel it is getting time for me to get out of it—unless I have a certainty of something more than a draughtsman's position." Gilbert negotiated by letter about taking over Johnston's St. Paul office while Johnston traveled in Europe, but they failed to agree on the terms.8

Gilbert returned to St. Paul in December 1882 as a midwestern representative of McKim, Mead, and White. At first this move seemed auspicious for the young architect: the firm's client, Henry Villard, was not only building townhouses in midtown Manhattan but was supplying his Northern Pacific Railroad with terminals, hotels, and depots along the route from St. Paul to Oregon. In 1883 McKim, Mead, and White completed a hospital for railroad employees at Brainerd, detailed and supervised by Gilbert, and in 1884, a hotel in Tacoma, Washington. As the architects' representative in Minnesota, Gilbert expected more commissions from Villard, but in 1884, while Mead and Gilbert were discussing opening a branch office to handle the anticipated work, Villard's empire collapsed. Luckily, Gilbert had made good business contacts, and he received commissions for houses, churches, and small commercial structures throughout the 1880s and 1890s.9

In 1884 Gilbert joined with his boyhood friend, James K. Taylor, in practice. Gilbert found Taylor to be expert in "matters of contracts, superintendence, and general conduct of affairs," and the two men worked together out of their downtown St. Paul office in the Gilfillan Block until 1891, shortly after which Taylor moved to Philadelphia. Using the business connections of Taylor's father, they developed real estate, obtained some small commissions, and pursued jobs as far away as the West Coast. Although St. Paul and Minneapolis were growing rapidly in the 1880s, the two men had to push hard to establish their practice.10

In 1890 Gilbert wrote to Mead in New York, complaining about the economically dull times in St. Paul; in response, Mead encouraged him to "abandon the West and settle in New York." A year later Gilbert told his mother: "I would willingly do so if I could form a partnership with a good firm there" He mentioned the partnership of John M. Carrère and Thomas Hastings as a possibility, but hard economic times made it difficult to transplant a business. He would wait another eight years before abandoning the West.11

Biding his time, Gilbert followed new leads, refined projects underway, and entered the competitive fray again and again. (As, early as 1879 he had joked about his "audacious egotism" as an "amiable trait.") Reflecting on his ambitious nature, he observed late in life, "I never have time to loaf with a friend when I know that my job is lagging behind: but must forsooth spur myself on to make good. . . . My life was always like that. It always will be."12

Because Gilbert's family connections were neither monied nor powerful, he worked to build his clientele by joining local organizations and accepting small commissions. One important network was the Minnesota Club, incorporated in 1884 for St. Paul residents to share "literary and social culture." Gilbert was the only architect among the incorporators, who included Henry H. Sibley as president, railroad magnate James J. Hill, and George C. Squires, Gilbert's attorney. Not only did Gilbert design houses for club members, but he also planned additions in 1892 and 1899 to the club's building at Fourth and Cedar streets.13

By the 1890s, St. Paul had changed from a river port to a railroad center. As rail lines pushed farther into the Upper Midwest, buildings of local dolomitic limestone gained neighbors constructed of sandstone from Wisconsin, Michigan, and more northerly Minnesota, granite from St. Cloud, and Kasota stone from the Mankato area.14

Gilbert's career was linked to the railroads from the beginning. After Villard's financial collapse, James J. Hill, a "one-eyed robber baron" and patron of the arts and architecture, took over a bankrupt railroad in 1878 and spent the next decade consolidating the Great Northern Railway. In 1887 Hill hired the Boston firm of Peabody, Stearns, and Furber to design his sandstone mansion overlooking downtown St. Paul; Gilbert assisted on the adjacent powerhouse, fence, and gates.15

Gilbert did not hesitate to use his link to Hill. The architect had gotten a job as superintendent of construction of the federal post office and custom house in St. Paul on Hill's recommendation in 1891. When it became apparent that Gilbert would lose this job with the change from Republican to Democratic presidents in 1893, he wired Hill: "Kindly telegraph Secretary [of Treasury John G.] Carlisle and Supervising Architect [Jeremiah O'Rourke] in my behalf." (Despite Gilbert's efforts, Democrat Grover Cleveland replaced him with St. Paul architect Bassford.) In an undated memo to the state capitol commissioners, Gilbert evoked Hill's name again, making the dubious claim that he had appointed Gilbert superintendent of construction for the Great Northern in 1891.16

Mindful of the vagaries of politics and bent on advancing the status of the architectural profession, Gilbert became president in 1894 of the recently formed Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), an East Coast-oriented group of practitioners. This organization of architects working in residential, ecclesiastical, and commercial design eventually changed the nature and appearance of building in the state. Because they shared some of their expertise with engineers and speculative builders, nineteenth century architects regularly found themselves bypassed by clients and their status and income thereby undercut. Only by convincing the public that fine buildings depended upon good design as well as an architect's supervision of construction did AIA members slowly ensure a niche for themselves. With this solid footing, they could charge standard fees based on a fixed percentage of total building costs.17

The attempt to establish architects as professionals at once created and fulfilled a need for large, embellished buildings. The effort coincided with a growing national self-consciousness that is variously labeled the American Renaissance or the City Beautiful movement. American designers culled building types and motifs from the past and reinterpreted them for contemporary use, an "innovative nostalgia" exemplified by the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Architectural leaders including McKim, Mead, and White and Daniel H. Burnham suggested that social harmony would result from a combination of governmental reform, public education, and popular support of beautification projects. They maintained that aesthetic harmony should become part of a national unity of ideals and values that ultimately would benefit all Americans. The idea of the architect as a powerful player in this national drama drew Gilbert to New York City to become a leader in redesigning America and the architectural profession.18

Refusing to limit his historical adaptations to a single era, Gilbert chose freely from historical and con-temporary architecture and decoration. If most midwestern designers were swayed by architect Henry H. Richardson's "medievalism," Gilbert arrived in St. Paul, one historian has observed, "with Richardson's medieval imagery in one pocket and McKim, Mead, and White's Renaissance Revival in the other."19

Buildings are more than bricks, stone, and concrete. They are both the cause and the effect of social interactions occurring at a particular time and place. In St. Paul the Endicott Building (1888-90) and the Minnesota state capitol (1896-1904) reveal the social and political networks Gilbert carefully tended in his quest for prominence on the national scene.20

Gilbert and Taylor had struggled in their business for four years before gaining the Endicott commission. One of their first commercial buildings, it was a plum. Belonging to prominent Boston clients, the site was well located downtown. Gilbert, eager to make his mark, attended to every detail to ensure quality and economy in design and construction. To his mother, he enthusiastically wrote in 1890: "I believe that the [Endicott's] style is so pure and so simple and so carefully carried out that it will be considered a scholarly peice [sic] of work."21

How did Gilbert, not yet thirty years old, and Taylor, only two years his senior, manage to receive the commission for a $750,000 structure? The most likely link between clients William Endicott, Jr., his brother Henry, and architects Gilbert and Taylor was Luther S. Cushing, the manager of the Boston and Northwest Real Estate Company in St. Paul. Cushing, the son of a prominent Massachusetts judge, maintained ties between St. Paul and Boston throughout his life.22

The Endicotts had a family dry goods business that supplied not only the Boston market but western cities as well. They lost a great deal of money when Villard's debt overtook him but stayed involved in investment real estate in St. Paul into the twentieth century, hiring Gilbert's office to design more office space and warehouses. The Endicotts also helped Gilbert receive other commissions in the Boston area. He understood his clients' desires to break provincial molds. As critic Montgomery Schuyler remarked in 1891: "There are among the emancipated practitioners of architecture in the West men who have shown that they can use their liberty wisely, and whose work can be hailed as among the hopeful beginnings of a national architecture."23

The Endicott Building, a six-story store and office building, wraps around the twelve-story Pioneer Building (1888-89) on the northeast corner of Fourth and Robert streets in downtown St. Paul. The L-shaped lot gave Gilbert and Taylor the opportunity to design two separated street facades, one facing each street.24

Working in the Renaissance-revival style made fashionable by McKim, Mead, and White's office in the early 1880s, Gilbert and Taylor designed different but harmonious exteriors linked on the interior by an innovative arcade. The Fourth Street main entrance is distinguished by a broad sandstone arch and stone treatment reminiscent of Roman and Florentine palazzi of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Robert Street entry is marked by four Tuscan columns of polished St. Cloud granite, designed using proportions suggested by Renaissance theorist Giacomo Vignola. Both sides of the building have basements of St. Cloud granite, ground stories of red sandstone from Upper Michigan, and upper stories of pressed brick with sandstone detailing.25

The moldings, cornice motifs, and facade organization reveal Gilbert's careful study of Italian Renaissance models during his travels after attending MIT, as well as his familiarity with publications no doubt available to him in McKim, Mead, and White's office, if not his own library. In a letter advising a young man about the most valuable works on architecture, Gilbert recommended books by Vignola and Paul Letarouilly. Letarouilly's three-volume Edifices de Rome Moderne detailed palaces, churches, and other important buildings of Renaissance Rome. Aspects of the Endicott Building resemble the Farnese Palace in Rome.26

The Endicott's barrel-vaulted interior arcade had an opalescent ceiling in grey, purple, and green glass. Thirty glass- and marble-fronted shops once faced the covered walkway that connected the two six-story structures housing 320 offices and two large banking rooms. Other Gilbert details enhanced the building's palatial effect: gilding, mosaic floors, brass elevator screens, and stenciled decorative borders. The building had its own central steam-heating plant and generators to run its elevators and electric lights.27

The subcontractor for the Endicott's cut stone was the Matt Breen Stone Company of St. Paul, which owned quarries in St. Cloud and Kasota. Publicity for the Endicott applauded Breen's work: "Machinery can cut stones for veneering iron construction, but when an architect insists upon a whole series of receding angles, as Gilbert & Taylor have done in this pierwork, then the stone mason gets a chance to learn his business.28

When estimates were gathered in 1888 for the likely costs of the building, Gilbert and Taylor wrote William Endicott about how to select a general contractor:

We advise that the suggestion of obtaining estimates from eastern contractors should come from you[,] as if it is known to come from us, will make us appear to be antagonizing the interests of local men, whereas it is supposed to be natural that you should want to give Eastern contractors a chance to do it and will make the competition sharper.... If you approve this please foreward [sic] the enclosed letters to them.29

Gilbert and Taylor had worked before with the St. Paul firm finally awarded the contract, Hennessy Brothers, Agnew and Cox, known for a number of large buildings in St. Paul. Among the eighteen or so subcontractors Gilbert and Taylor hired, six were based in Chicago, seven were local, and the remaining five had headquarters on the East Coast.

The building's engineer was Louis E. Ritter, who would work in Chicago in the 1890s for William L. B. Jenney and William B. Mundie, well-known architects and engineers of tall office buildings. Ritter solved foundation problems, designed the interior framing, and made it possible to build next door to a newspaper plant without disturbing the printing presses.30

Gilbert and Taylor supplied their eastern investors with an up-to-date building that echoed East Coast models. Foremost among the architectural sources for the Endicott were the Villard Houses in Manhattan, begun while Gilbert was still a draftsman in McKim, Mead, and White's office. Joseph M. Wells, a designer in the firm, apparently tightened a plan sketched by Stanford White, using a fifteenth-century Roman palace as his main source. From New York, Gilbert had written to his friend Johnston in 1882: "The Villard house is up to the 2nd floor beams and has a good character. It is amusing to see how jealous Wells is of his masterpiece." In a penciled annotation on an article about his work, Gilbert later wrote that the "Villard House influenced me on Endicott "31

Another Wells design, the Russell and Erwin Building (also known as the RussWin Hotel) in New Britain, Connecticut, may have been a model for Gilbert and Taylor's organization of the Endicott facades, and the RussWin itself derived from another McKim, Mead, and White building. Gilbert knew about Wells's work in New Britain because Wells had written him in 1884: "I have one new work in hand, of considerable importance to me—An office building in New Britain, Connecticut. I think it will be more liked than Villard's Houses, though I have not aimed at Popularity. It looks very promising just now. It is a monumental work, where we had money to spend, and fair dimensions."32

In order to gain recognition for his own effort in St. Paul, Gilbert sent photographs of the Endicott's facades to Wells. In reply, Wells wrote: "I like everything about the building, excepting the proportions of the [large stone arch] main entrance to the main building. That seemed to my eyes, as belonging too much to the Richardsonian order of things to harmonize with any style of architecture requiring good proportion.... But the general effect is very good, and dignified—and I congratulate you on it."33

A decade after the Endicott planning, the T - Square Club of Philadelphia solicited opinions from a dozen architects and critics of national reputation, including Louis Sullivan and Daniel Burnham, on the topic, "An Unaffected School of Modern Architecture in America—Will It Come?" Gilbert was solicited because of his winning design entry to the 1895 competition for the Minnesota state capitol and his energetic activity on behalf of the AIA. While the architects' visions of how to express American ideals ranged from organicism and medievalism to special design methods, Gilbert fit into none of these spheres. Never a theorist, he instead saw his role as developing solutions to architectural problems, as a provider of services to a client and a public. To a staff member in 1897, for instance, he wrote: "My plans are instruments of service and not merchandise to be bought and sold and if they want my design they must retain me fully as architect." 34

As for historical styles, Gilbert seemed to view them as catalog items to be assembled and executed under his supervision to fit particular tastes and needs. One of his early mentors at MIT, William R. Ware, noted in the T -Square Club survey: "[The] modern spirit is ... a different one [from the spirit that wrought genuine styles].... People who know of half a dozen ways to do things, all equally admirable and all equally unfamiliar, cannot possibly work as the men did who knew only one way, and knew that perfectly well. "35 Ware elaborated that numerous archaeological and historical studies had challenged local ways of designing and building, allowing architects and their clients to search for different forms in the past and in far-removed locations. The Renaissance forms Gilbert used on the Endicott Building reflect this quest.

When thirty-six-year-old Gilbert prepared his design for Minnesota's capitol, he sought a monument that would attract the attention of leaders in his profession who shared Ware's view that creative eclecticism was the modern style. Along with other prominent architects, he ignored the first competition in 1894 because of its inadequate financial compensation for the winning architect. The state capitol commissioners and the East Coast juror selected for the second, more lucrative competition were pleased with Gilbert's winning entry in 1895. But the capitol he planned had more to do with Gilbert's ambitions than with Minnesota of the 1890s. "For myself," Gilbert wrote in the T-Square Club survey, "I prefer the development of art as a whole, in its larger sense rather than the development of an American art." 36

During the years Gilbert worked out the details of the capitol exterior and interior, his letters provide numerous examples of his eclectic methods and his ambitions. To his office staff in the Endicott Building in 1897, he cautioned: "Don't be tempted to get weights [for steel] too light. Remember this work is different from office buildings and must last 500 years." While designing the edifice, Gilbert consulted books, photographs, and "some of the best men in New York and Boston." In his travels, he studied buildings carefully and jotted down notes, writing in 1898 to staff member Frederick C. Gibbs, for example, that "I am going to climb the dome of the Florence Cathedral today to make notes of its construction with a view to our work.... This trip is a very valuable one for the Capitol work as I am constantly finding practical points." Later that year he instructed the capitol commissioners to have all the marble work given "a `rubbed' finish instead of the `drove cut' or 'tooled' finish originally required ... in conformity to the universal custom of marble cutting abroad, where I examined a number of buildings." 37

Gilbert did not look as far afield for other sources of inspiration. In 1891 McKim, Mead, and White had won the competition for the Rhode Island capitol in Providence, adapting Renaissance details to fit their white marble monument. The organization of the facade was derived from the English Renaissance architect Inigo Jones, whose work had already been honored in the 1790s by William Thornton on the nation's Capitol in Washington, D. C. The tall, colonnaded dome of the Rhode Island capitol imitated Sir Christopher Wren's design for St. Paul's Cathedral in London. 38

Because of a delay, the Rhode Island capitol was erected at almost the same time as Minnesota's (1895-1905), but Gilbert would have had access to the 1891 Providence design because of his connections to the firm and because the competition entries were published. Penciled on a 1912 article about his work is a note by Gilbert stating that his plan of the Minnesota capitol had been greatly influenced by the one in Rhode Island.39

In both buildings, the senate and house chambers sit on the second floor, but Gilbert put the house in an intersecting wing instead of on an axis with the senate. McKim, Mead, and White located the main stairway in the rotunda, while Gilbert treated that circular, colonnaded space as a meeting area. "It is assumed," he wrote, "that the purpose of the Rotunda is to provide a great central space ... to accommodate the moving crowd of people."40

By the time Gilbert designed his competition entry, the Renaissance-revival style of the Rhode Island statehouse had been acclaimed and widely accepted. Minnesota's capitol commissioners reportedly viewed the Providence building as ideal.41

The choice of building stone for Minnesota's capitol was at the center of the drawn-out controversy regarding the building and ultimately had long-term consequences for the architect. Local quarriers and shippers wanted Minnesota stone exclusively, and public opinion generally supported them. Gilbert, on the other hand, wanted a monument in marble that would last five hundred years. Compromise and economy resulted in an exterior veneer of white Georgia marble with foundation piers and dome supports of Kettle River sandstone, foundation walls of Winona and local blue limestone, and basement walls of St. Cloud granite. Minnesota stones—polished Kasota stone, granite, and pipestone—also decorated the building's interior.

The choice of Georgia marble was difficult for the capitol commissioners, who faced enormous pressures to vote against the "foreign" material and for Minnesota stone. In 1897 Commissioner Charles H. Graves wrote confidentially to Gilbert:

A majority of the Comm. feel [sic] that they must take Minnesota stone. [Eben E.] Corliss, [Edgar] Weaver, and [George A.] DuToit are surely that way. [Henry W ] Lamberton also, I think, unless you can get at him at once, and convince him to the contrary.... My suggestion to decide on the stone and put you at work changing the plan to suit it, was no joke. I appreciate we have a marble or limestone plan, and not a sandstone or granite design.
42

Sandstone or rough-hewn granite might have been used for a medieval-revival building, but limestone or marble would have been the compelling choices for Gilbert's classical monument.

Gilbert's argument for a marble exterior succeeded in part because St. Paul's Butler-Ryan Company was awarded the low-bid construction contract in 1897. It operated a quarry in Georgia for the duration and also supplied the capitol's granite and sandstone. The firm alleviated some objections to the Georgia stone by having it milled on site by Minnesota workmen. 43

Ironically, while Gilbert won his battle, the use of marble from Georgia infuriated powerful men like James J. Hill, who now turned against him. A disgruntled Gilbert complained to Taylor in 1899:

My refusal to accede to demands of politicians and influential quarrymen and railroad magnates in letting the contract for the Minnesota State Capitol has ... almost wipe[d] out my private business during the last year. Over $200,000 in railroad business, alone, have been withdrawn from me ... and the railroad officials have said openly in the Minnesota Club that the above was the cause. 44

It was the downturn in Gilbert's business caused by his success in managing the capitol design that finally forced him to do what he had wanted to do for at least a decade: abandon the West. The acclaim he received for this building enabled Gilbert, not yet forty, to move to New York City in 1898. From this vantage point he designed buildings of national significance such as the New York Custom House and the Woolworth Tower as well as the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. Before completely closing his St. Paul office in 1910, he also designed a master plan and mall for Minneapolis's University of Minnesota campus.

For Gilbert, the capitol battle had been a matter of principle. He had not fought long and hard to upgrade architects' control over government commissions only to lose ground to local economic interests. His insistence on professional pay of 5 percent of the building's cost meant his services would not be compromised. Seeing himself as representing practitioners throughout the country, he had argued for the right of architects to superintend their designs as well as shape the organization and evaluation of design competitions.45

Once Gilbert won the Minnesota capitol commission, he made the most of it. He pushed for expenditure after expenditure to ensure use of elegant materials, high quality decoration, and monumental status. He demanded, and got, national attention by sending complimentary photographs of the capitol to East Coast colleagues. He also asked influential New York artists like John LaFarge, Kenyon Cox, Edwin H. Blashfield, and Daniel C. French to provide decorations. The end result was a monument lavish with sculpture and murals that outdistanced in embellishment his model in Rhode Island. By taking off from the successful design of his East Coast mentors and importing sculptors and artists to complete his task, he assured himself acclaim in the very circles he aimed to please. The capitol, like the Endicott Building, reveals Gilbert's intentional beckoning from the Mississippi River to the Hudson.46

Early in his career, Cass Gilbert showed himself to be an able assessor of his own and others' capabilities. He cultivated the right contacts, associated with up-to date contractors and engineers, and hired competent designers. In the complexity of interactions involved in executing a building, Gilbert sensed where he stood in the network and operated accordingly. Connections to colleagues, clients, politicians, bureaucrats, financiers, contractors, engineers, and real estate agents both created and reflected a process that affected the built product. In many ways, Gilbert acted as a politician who skillfully satisfies a varied constituency.

With the Minnesota capitol, Gilbert thrust himself and the state's government into the limelight that fostered his nationwide architectural practice. Today, structures that he subsequently helped create stand as vital national landmarks in cities such as Austin, Texas, St. Louis, Detroit, and Boston, as well as New York City and Washington, D.C. These eclectic monuments serve as built reminders of powerful turn-of-the-century ideals. Cass Gilbert made the expectations and aspirations of business people and politicians visible in civic and commercial projects. Looking back on his Minnesota career, one writer noted in 1926 that Gilbert "put in twenty years mainly at the drafting board before Dame Fortune smiled on him, and Reputation began calling upon him to appear at Directors' meetings and dinner functions." If true, those years were to Minnesota's benefit. 47

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