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After college try, U of M tearing down 1888 Music Education building

In another era, the handsome but diminutive Music Education building on the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus might have disappeared without a voice being raised or a fuss of any kind.

But the 1888 sandstone structure survived into the 1990s, when along with other buildings on the Knoll (now the Old Campus Historic District) it got a last-minute reprieve from then-president Mark Yudof.

Nearby masonry heavyweights such as Nicholson and Pillsbury Halls got updated for continued use, but the tiny building on the hairpin turn of East River Parkway just outside Dinkytown proved too small for the 21st century. The university began knocking it down this week after 15 years of trying to find a new use or a new owner.

Over that time, says James Litsheim, historic preservation architect for U of M campuses statewide, the university spent $500,000 to keep the structure in decent shape. It needed $2 million more of work but the university offered it for one dollar. There was some interest, but no takers, says Litsheim. No one knew quite what to do with a Richardsonian Romanesque miniature that has no more than 3,000 square feet over four floors, divided into "a rabbit warren" of music practice rooms.

"It's hard to lose this one," Litsheim says, fearing for other small buildings around the state as the university downsizes its space needs in step with reduced state funding. The university is salvaging decorative elements and sandstone facing. The site is so small that the university's master plan calls for it simply to become green space.

The building began as home to the Student Christian Organization. Its last occupant in the late 1990s was a lone researcher, famed inventor Otto Schmitt, in the last years of his own life.

Source: James Litsheim, University of Minnesota
Writer: Chris Steller
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