St. Paul Art Authority


The Harvest States Head House and Sack House is an ideal vessel for Saint Paul to develop a place for critical perception of the city’s emerging culture, and to provide an archive of past achievements by significant city artists. The building’s continuous role in processing the region’s basic commodities for transfer via the Mississippi River parallels the development of the city of Saint Paul itself. The transformation of this building from its historic role in transferring grain from field to market to transplantation of art from mind to minds  makes the structure an apt metaphor for this proposed form of urban development.

Museums are properly the resting place for art objects that are the result of the creative process. The Saint Paul Art Authority would be the place where the creative process would begin – disseminating ideas to influence and kick-start the process. The Saint Paul Art Authority would sponsor a spectrum of activities to foster overlapping relationships and artistic endeavors, performances, improvisations, discussions and debates, exhibitions. Permanent collections would not be important. Like the Mississippi River that flows beneath it, what is current would be ever-changing activities as its driving force.

St. Paul Art Authority


  1. Re-use of the existing building as a center for emerging arts in Saint Paul and as an archival center for past and current artists who have contributed to Saint Paul’s cultural heritage.
  2. The building itself would be rehabilitated to maintain its existing architectural features. Interior and exterior surfaces would be repaired and restored to original surface character but would not receive “finished” applied treatment. Original window and door openings would be retained, with new frames, glazing and doors sympathetic to original, including industrial window sash and frames. New interior walls and related features for the building functions would be built.
  3. The original architecture of the building would receive no alterations or additive elements. The main level deck would be rebuilt, as would a river level dock for water taxi service. It is intended that the building would transform its character by elements that would be iconographic, intended to signify the Saint Paul Art Authority re-use. Large scale letters reading SAINT PAUL ART AUTHORITY on the land elevation and WATCH THE CURRENT on the river elevation would be installed, signifying its new purpose. The face of the letters on the north elevation would be solid, and the face of the letters on the south elevation attached to the deck would be fabricated by metal pipe forming the letter outline, with open space between, allowing for view to the river.
  4. This architectural design approach of maintaining all of the building’s historical elements will meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines for Historic Preservation.


  1. Tower floor areas: symposium spaces, archives, works-in-progress studios intended for collaborative visit sessions by various artists, some for visits by the public, others for artists only
  2. Main Floor areas: the building interior would have a restaurant, coffee bar, small performance area, small gallery, ancillary functions. The river side exterior would be converted into a deck for casual dining and conversation.
  3. The space underneath the deck would feature a dock for water taxi facilities.


In addition to the typical and required systems such as mechanical and electrical systems, roofing, doors and windows, floor coverings, toilets, offices, storage, etc., the following features related to the building’s functions would be installed and built:

The first floor will be built-up with a new floor structure supported by a beam system with hydraulic jacks to provide a lifting mechanism for times of 100-year flood conditions. Expecting building operations to be closed during that time, the raised floor, built in sections, containing walls and various equipment would be designed with no fixed attachment to exterior walls; plumbing and electrical lines would require disconnect devices. Doors and windows would receive gasketed coverings installed in advance of rising flood waters.

An entrance plaza across the north elevation, a main deck on the south elevation, and the large-scale letters forming the words “SAINT PAUL ART AUTHORITY” and “WATCH THE CURRENT” would be the most significant exterior additive elements. Side walkways would connect the plaza and main deck spaces, so that access to the river can be gained along all sides of the structure. The letters on the north elevation would be free-standing, ground-mounted, with infilled faces; the letters on the south elevation would be mounted to the edge of the deck, with a mesh screen railing behind, and their outline form with space between would allow river viewing.  Design-wise, this would give the iconography a solid character on the land side, with a more transparent aspect to the river side.

Below the main deck, a dock and related facilities for a water taxi transit stop would be constructed, along with an elevator to the main floor. The Saint Paul Art Authority will integrate its cultural and historic presence with its river setting, and within various land and water transportation modes.

Proposal conceived and developed by:
Preservation Architect: Robert Roscoe
Designer and Curator: John P Corrigan

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