Gold Medal Park
I-35W Bridge Memorial
The Guthrie Theater has been a major player in the Twin Cities Cultural Scene for as long as I can remember.
I recall falling in love with theatrical productions on a high school field trip to see “Hamlet” at the Guthrie when it first opened in 1963. That love continued into adult hood with season tickets to the Guthrie – before raising children put a crimp in our activities, and our family budget! We have also felt a kinship to the theater through close friends who worked at the Guthrie both in administration and as actors. It is a grand place – and now you can check out the fascinating building without attending a play! (Which we also encourage!)
The Guthrie was designed to be a resource for the entire community. Their lobbies and public spaces are now open to enjoy (check website for hours/days). Free. No reservations are needed. We took advantage of this opportunity on our recent Travel Date to the Mississippi Heritage Trail. (See blogs on St. Anthony Falls, Stone Arch Bridge, and Nicollet Island included in this adventure.)
The Guthrie’s Next Door Neighbors
Did you know that the Guthrie has two next door neighbor sites that are also worthy of a visit?
There are three significant – though somewhat unrelated – sites that we included in our Travel Date along the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
Not officially on the Heritage Trail , they are an integral part of the area – just down the street from the south end of the Stone Arch Bridge – and an important side trip to not miss.
Enjoy these three spots as we experienced them!
These pictures below may help to provide some perspective on these sites, and their relationship to the other places we explored along the Mississippi River Heritage Trail.
The aerial view below is a good shot of the area. Downtown Minneapolis is off the photo on the left. In the foreground is Gold Medal Park, mid-picture is the Guthrie Theater (blue) with the Gold Medal Flour sign behind it.
This photo (below) is taken from the Amber/Yellow Room of the Guthrie Theater and faces the I-35W Bridge in the distant center. The Gold Medal Park is on the center right, and 35W Bridge Memorial is across the street near the arched electrical pole.
This map lays out the whole of the area. The Heritage Walk is in red. The Guthrie Theatre, Gold Medal Park and 35W Bridge Memorial are in the far lower right side. (Sorry for the lack or clarity, but this map is comprehensive.)
For visitors walking across the Stone Arch Bridge, it is just a short walk to these 3 fun sites. There are great views of this bridge along this walk.
A Bit of History…
The Guthrie Theater is a center for theater performance, production, education, and professional training. The founders, disenchanted with Broadway, sought to form a theater with a resident acting company to perform classic plays in rotating repertory, while maintaining the highest professional standards. They have accomplished this – and more!
The Guthrie Theater opened on May 7, 1963, with a production of Hamlet directed by Sir Tyrone Guthrie (1900-1971), the theater’s founder. The first theater building (1963-2006) was on Vineland Place, next to the Walker Art Center. As a Minnesotan, I think it is exciting that it was designed by local architect, Ralph Rapson (1914-2008), Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota for 30 years.
The theater moved to its current facility on the Mississippi River in 2007. Designed by renowned French architect, Jean Nouvel, the unique facility houses three theaters: (1) the theater’s signature thrust stage, seating 1,100, (2) a 700-seat proscenium stage, and (3) a black-box studio with flexible seating.
Nouvel designed the Guthrie Theater, like all his buildings, to “create a visual landscape” that fit their context—sometimes by making them contrast with the surrounding area. His boldly experimental designs defy a general characterization and have won prestigious international awards. This can be seen as one crosses Mississippi River on the Stone Arch Bridge or drives down the West River Parkway. (britannica.com/biography/Jean-Nouvel)
The Guthrie: its place on the Mississippi River
The distinctive, cobalt blue Guthrie Theatre with its bright yellow ‘amber” room can be seen against the Minneapolis skyline, crossing the Mississippi River on the Stone Arch Bridge
Designed to be a resource for the entire community, the lobbies and public spaces of the Guthrie are now open to enjoy. Free. No reservations are needed. Check website for updates.
Guthrie Theater: the Endless Bridge
The Endless Bridge is the signature feature of the Guthrie Theater. This cantilevered bridge extends 178 feet north of the building to a point that is 50 feet above the West River Parkway. Located just downstream of St. Anthony Falls, and it offers a sweeping view of the falls area and the historic Stone Arch Bridge.
The Endless Bridge is neither endless, nor is it really a bridge. It doesn’t cross water, and never gets closer to the Mississippi River than 275 feet. But that’s OK! It is fun and a great place to check out for its fabulous views!
The photos above look towards the theater building and entrance directly under the Endless Bridge.
The structure is a steel truss that is counterbalanced by the weight of the building. It extends from the building between the 4th and 5th floors with an observation deck overlooking the Mississippi River at the end providing the feeling of a theater space.
The outside of the building’s walls are covered in large panels which display a large mural of photographs from past plays visible clearly at night.
The Guthrie: View of the Mississippi
At the end of the Endless Bridge is an observation deck. It has a series of large steps for sitting or standing giving the feel of an outdoor theater space with the Mississippi River being the stage.
Architect Jean Nouvel is credited with saying that this is THE view that this building simply had to have.
It has been said that this spot offers the single best view of the Mississippi River anywhere along its 2,552 mile length – and it is hard to disagree with that!
The Guthrie: Views from Inside the Endless Bridge
There are a number of differently shaped windows cut into the side of the Endless Bridge. Each window is positioned in such a manner to frame a particular view to highlight a location that is historically significant. Here is just a sample!
Guthrie Theater: the Amber/Yellow Room
On the 9th floor of the Guthrie Theater is a fascinating cantilevered observation box made of amber/yellow colored glass windows and floor. It looks north over the Mississippi and has awesome views of the the riverfront district: Stone Arch Bridge, St. Anthony Falls, Gold Medal Park, and Hennepin Island.
Gold Medal Park
Next to the Guthrie Theater is a park honoring the history of its neighbor to the west, and honoring the area’s milling industry: Gold Medal Park. It was difficult to get a good photo of it while on the ground, but is fascinating to look at it from those photos taken from above!
Gold Medal Park is a 7.5 acre park in the heart of the St. Anthony Falls area. It contains a 32′ tall mound whose top may be accessed by a spiral sidewalk. At the top there is seating amidst a grove of trees with good views of the Mississippi River, the historic Stone Arch Bridge, Guthrie Theater, and the historic milling district.
It also showcases several pieces of outdoor sculpture including at least one by Alexander Calder.
Today, the Gold Medal Park Conservancy maintains the park and similar urban areas near the central Mississippi riverfront.
Gold Medal Park opened in May of 2007. Among Minneapolis’ newest parks, the area was a gathering place for Minnesotans in the aftermath of the I-35W bridge collapse (August 1, 2007). The memorial for the I-35 bridge collapse was built across from Gold Medal Park.
35W Bridge Memorial
Shortly after 6 pm on August 1, 2007, the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis was loaded with rush hour traffic creeping through an ongoing construction project. Without warning, the bridge collapsed, taking with it 111 vehicles. Thirteen people died and 145 were injured. (lrl.mn.gov/guides/guides?issue=bridges)
On the fourth anniversary of the bridge collapse, officials unveiled a memorial that features thirteen I-beams in tribute to those who died and a granite wall honoring the 171 survivors.
Just across the street from the Gold Medal Park, and a short walk from the Guthrie Theater and the Stone Arch Bridge, this memorial is worth the stop.
The wall backs 13 towering I-beams that stretch 81 feet (a symbolic tribute to the date 8/1 or August 1) inscribed with the names of the deceased.
The collapsed 35W bridge is shown below.
The memorial honors those who died – and the community that disaster brought together.
The “inspirational phrase” recognizing emergency responders adorns the wall. It reads:
“Our lives are not only defined by what happens, but by how we act in the face of it, not only by what life brings us, but by what we bring to life. Selfless actions and compassion create enduring community out of tragic events.”
The area around the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis is filled with interesting sites to visit and experiences to be had. This blog highlights three. Other blogs of the area for you to enjoy include: Nicollet Island, Stone Arch Bridge, St. Anthony Falls, Hennepin Island, St. Anthony Main and Mill City Ruins. Check back as additional ones become available!
- All photos by Cher B or Skip B unless otherwise noted
- Self-Guided Tour arranged by Cher B with Skip B. 18 September 2021
- Britannica – britannica.com/biography/Jean-Nouvel
- Gold Metal Park – goldmedalpark.org/visit
- Gold Medal Park – stuffaboutminneapolis.tumblr.com/post/176932686749/gold-medal-park
- Guthrie Theater – guthrietheater.org/about-us/Our-Spaces/
- Minnesota Legislature Library – lrl.mn.gov/guides/guides?issue=bridges
- Minn Post – minnpost.com/politics-policy/2011/08/new-35w-bridge-memorial-honors-those-who-died-and-community-disaster-brought/
- NPR – npr.org/2017/08/01/540669701/10-years-after-bridge-collapse-america-is-still-crumbling