6 Minneapolis Locations made famous by Mary Tyler Moore
“Who can turn the world on with her smile?”
In our recent Travel Date to Minneapolis, Minnesota, we were reminded of Minneapolis’ touch with stardom in the 1970s. The Mary Tyler Moore Show is near and dear to us Minnesotans because it is set in Minneapolis. Even if the show was primarily filmed elsewhere, in our hearts and minds, Mary Richards (Tyler Moore) was – and still is – ours!
Personally, in the 1970s as a young, single, career woman, Mary Richards resonated with me. As a Minnesotan living out of state, seeing landmarks and references to “home” warmed my heart. I related to both Mary – and the show – on many levels.
Today, 40+ years later, we strolled down the Minneapolis Nicollet Mall and encountered the bronze statue of Mary Tyler Moore. I thought of the positive impact she – and the show – had on a generation of young women like me. I smile. Because, like the theme song of her show, “she turned the world on with her smile!”
Just across the street were two other landmarks from the show. As we drove out of downtown, we viewed the fourth. Outside of our downtown route and a bit Farther Afield was the fifth and sixth: the iconic Mary Tyler Moore House and Lake of the Isles in Kenwood. I share them all with you below and encourage you to take a MTM Travel Date in Minneapolis!
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
From 1970-77, CBS originally aired the American television sitcom starring actress and namesake Mary Tyler Moore. She starred as Mary Richards, an unmarried, independent woman focused on her career as associate producer of the fictional WJM news program in Minneapolis.
It was very rare in 1970s American television to have a central female character who was neither married nor dependent on a man. For this alone the show was a groundbreaking series.
(Scenes for Mary Tyler Moore Show from Google Images)
The MTM Cast
Not only was Moore a great comedic/dramatic actress not afraid to deal with tough subjects, the show was also filled with a great cast. Ed Asner (Mary’s boss, Lou Grant), Valerie Harper (friend and neighbor, Rhoda Morgenstern) and Cloris Leachman (friend Phyllis Lindstrom) each had their own shows spin off from this one. Gavin MacLeod, Ted Knight, Georgia Engel and Betty White completed the legendary cast.
In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked The Mary Tyler Moore Show No. 6 on its list of the “101 Best Written TV Series of All Time”.
Exploring MTM Local Sites
To explore Mary Tyler Moore Sites in Minneapolis, in person or virtually, please continue. Three are downtown Minneapolis within a block of each other: Statue, IDS Tower and RSM buildings. The Riverside Plaza is just to the east of downtown and can be seen from the freeway. The last two, the original MTM House and Lake of the Isles, take a bit more time and planning, but are worth every bit of it as it opens a whole new world of the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes! (See separate blog coming soon!)
Mary Tyler Moore Statue
Corner of Nicollet Avenue and 7th Street, downtown Minneapolis
When embarking on a Mary Tyler Moore Minneapolis scavenger hunt, the place to begin is Mary’s bronze sculpture. It is here where Mary Tyler Moore’s place in Minneapolis history is officially recognized in bronze. Here, the iconic final shot in the open credits are recreated as Mary throws her tam in the air.
Commissioned by TV Land, it was installed in 2002 near the site of the original “toss” in downtown Minneapolis on the corner of Nicollet Avenue and 7th Street.
Who is that other woman?
An interesting side note is the identity of the woman looking on in the tan coat, forever immortalized in this spontaneous scene. She is Hazel Frederick; she recalls “I didn’t even know what was going on. I just walked up to this crowd and this woman threw her hat up in the air. I guess I just got in the way.” When they were finally introduced, Moore graciously brought Frederick (then in her 90s) onstage at a book-signing telling the crowd she had been the co-star in her opening-credits!
Iconic Scene Immortalized in Bronze
The iconic scene of Mary tossing her hat into the air happened quite by accident. Nobody dreamed it would be key to the show! Mary remembers a director saying “You know what would be a good idea, Mary? Go out in the middle of the intersection and take that tam off and throw it in the air.” She said it was so cold that words would not form, so she just did as she was told! And the rest is history!
The famous hat toss relived!
As for the hat, which would be Smithsonian-bait, Moore always said it was her own, a gift from her beloved aunt, but that it had been stolen. Wonder where it is today? It is forever in your memories.
Mary Tyler Moore House: The House Where Mary Lived
- 2104 Kenwood Parkway, Minneapolis
- Near Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lakes
The Mary Tyler Moore House can be seen today in a stately residential area just south of downtown Minneapolis. You’ll probably need a car to get here, and a good GPS.
This is a privately owned home, so if you visit, be gracious and courteous to the current owners, please!
This is the 19th century house that was used for exterior shots of Mary’s apartment for the first five seasons of the show. She lived on the top floor and Rhoda lived in the attic apartment.
Kenwood is a neighborhood within the Calhoun-Isles community in Minneapolis. Its boundaries are Cedar Lake Parkway to the west, Kenwood Parkway to the north, West Lake of the Isles Parkway to the east, and Kenilworth Place to the south.
Traveler Tips: Drive around the neighborhood to feast on some of the grand old houses in the area. Follow the parkway to enjoy the picturesque lakes in the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes.
Lake of the Isles: The Lake Where Mary Walked
Mary’s Minneapolis house is a short walk to Lake of The Isles. On the city’s Chain of Lakes, it shares a string which includes Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles (seen here), Bde Maka ska/Lake Calhoun, and Lake Harriet.
See separate blog (coming soon) on these local gems.
IDS Crystal Court: Where Mary Lunched & Shopped
- IDS Center Crystal Court
- 80 8th Street South, downtown Minneapolis on Nicollet Mall
This is an important stop in MTM land. Several shots from the opening credits for the later seasons were filmed here, including Mary riding up the escalator and dining on the balcony above the Crystal Court.
The IDS Tower was the nation’s 16th-tallest building when it opened in 1973. Architect Philip Johnson referred to the distinctive cuts in the tower’s corners as “zogs.” It was the first major skyscraper in Minneapolis after the Foshay Tower, built in 1929.
On Nicollet Mall, it is just a block from the MTM statue. While much is the same as when Mary lived here, it has been recently renovated. The balcony cafe is still there* and the escalator remains as does the unique ambiance and character of this great piece of architecture.
Traveler Tip: Go inside and up the escalator (as Mary did!). Look down at the reflecting pool for another vantage point of the unique architecture.
*Check out Rick Nelson’s Table Talk (1/12/18) for updates on the IDS renovation and cafe: startribune.com/mary-tyler-moore-hangout-with-view-of-ids-crystal-court-now-a-breakfast-joint/468851173/
RSM Plaza: Where Mary Worked
- RSM Plaza
- 801 Nicollet Mall, downtown Minneapolis
This building was used for exterior shots of the offices of the fictional station, WJM-TV, where Mary worked.
The RSM Plaza is in the same block as and connected to the IDS. This makes the IDS as a logical place for Mary to pop over for lunch or shopping after work.
Not as exciting or beautiful as the IDS, RSM Plaza is 320-foot (98 m) tall skyscraper. Formerly known as McGladrey Plaza, it was completed in 1969 and has 20 floors which serve as rental space for a number of companies.
Traveler Tip: There is nothing to see if you go inside, but gaze up the outer windows and, if you look hard enough, I’m sure you will be able to see Mary or one of her co-workers peaking out the window!
Riverside Plaza: Where Mary Also Lived
- Riverside Plaza, Cedar-Riverside area
- 1600 6th Street South, Minneapolis
This tidbit of MTM Lore was totally new to me as I researched for this blog. The colorful blocks of primary colors randomly placed on this building have always intrigued me on a design level. They remind me of the art of Mondrian!
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this community of colorful skyscrapers was used for exterior shots of Mary’s new apartment beginning in the 6th season of the show and for the final two seasons.
This complex is common to travelers driving on I-94 and I-35W east of downtown Minneapolis. And most MTM fans may not even know she lived here; I didn’t! After all, how could this compare to “THE” Mary Tyler Moore House in Kenwood?
Traveler Tip: don’t bother to look further than what you can see from the freeway. The Cedar-Riverside area is a tangle-town of streets including “Seven Corners” in which to maneuver. Your best view is from the freeway
Designed in the early 1970s by modernist architect and local Minnesota son, Ralph Rapson, it is located near the Mississippi River and the University of Minnesota’s West Bank campus. Despite local opposition to the designation of such modern architecture on the list, the complex was individually-listed in the National Register of Historic Places in December of 2010 for its exceptional significance.
It was fun to walk down memory lane as I recalled the warmth and laughter of the Mary Tyler Moore Show and how it inspired me both personally and professionally. These six sites, though different today than in Mary’s day, still bring warm thoughts and fond memories. For me, she is still able to “turn the world on with her smile!”
- Self-guided tour of Mary Tyler Moore Land by Cher B and Skip B, 06 August (downtown Minneapolis) and 22 August (Lake of the Isles area) 2021