The Merchant’s National Bank was designed by Architect Edward P. Bassford, and erected in 1892 in the Romanesque style. Local railroad baron James J. Hill was a founding member of the bank. The structure is individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The two primary facades are clad with highly detailed red sandstone and were fully preserved including the full restoration of the original parapet. When the project began we weren’t even aware that a significant portion of the parapet had been removed at some point. During a meeting with the St. Paul HPC we discovered a photo from the early 20th century that showed the impressive original design and configuration. AWH worked with BRC, Stoneworks, and Scott Halverson with Architrave to reconstruct the parapet with cast stone as it was in 1892. The design of a new exterior fire escape was a particularly fun exercise; not many architects get to do that anymore!
Once the exterior restoration was completed the project moved inside to rehabilitate the top two levels (third and fourth) and roof. With the encouragement of an amazing client, AWH created office space for a world-renowned law firm representing victims of child abuse, with additional space for two mission-oriented non-profits. The rehabilitated space was conceived as a light-filled meeting place for those working tirelessly to defend their clients. A large opening was cut through the roof assembly down to the third floor. This vertical shaft is a beacon for light, movement, and the surrounding exposed historic layers are left exposed to provide a visual narrative of the historic structure. Original maple flooring was found intact under several layers of just about every flooring imaginable, and the fantastic construction team with Greiner Construction ensured that the floor will see another 100+ years of life.
The organizations that call the Guardian Building home are committed to eliminating abuse of children as well as the environment. With that in mind, the renovated facility features a biosolar roof that addresses climate change with a multi-pronged approach. As the first truly integrated biosolar roof in Minnesota, the technology incorporates plantings that help reduce roof temperatures, manage stormwater and provide pollinator habitat along with solar panels that generate renewable, clean energy. The project is pursuing LEED Platinum certification, and shortly after completion received a Minnesota Climate Adaptation Award from the Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership.
AWH Architects also acted as the historic consultant for state and federal Historic Tax Credits, and local historic entitlements.