BUTLER SQUARE

1900

T. B. Walker buys the 1.4 acre “baseball block” with partner Levi to use as a nine story warehouse building. Butler Square rests on a piece of property that once housed a 1,800-seat Athletic Park, home of the Minneapolis Millers and the St. Paul Saints. Historians believed that the stadium's home plate once rested at First Avenue North and Sixth Street North. The best estimate of its exact location today is that it was near the First Avenue entrance and Butler Square's "A" elevator bank.

Thomas Barlow Walker (February 1, 1840–July 28, 1928) was a highly successful American businessperson who acquired timber in Minnesota and California and became an art collector. Walker founded the Minneapolis Public Library. He was among the 10 wealthiest men in the world in 1923.

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1906

The largest wholesale warehouse west of Chicago, Butler Brothers Warehouse construction begins, a 500,000 sq. ft. warehouse for the Butler Brothers Company, a mail order retailing firm. It was built by T. B. Walker and was designed by architect Harry W. Jones. The interior was a true reflection of its functional intent. Heavy timber post and beam construction provided the 300 pound per square foot loading requirements of the warehouse. The Douglas Fir timbers were taken from Walker's own tree farm and lumber mill, precut and put together on a module measuring approximately 14' by 16'. The columns which receive the beams with cast iron brackets gradually diminish in size from 24" square on the ground floor to a spindly 9" on the ninth floor.

Horses were used in the warehouse operation during the turn of the century and were stabled in the basement. Also in the basement were three huge coal fired boilers. Mechanical elevators facilitated the movement of material throughout the building. Twice as long as it is wide, the building is divided in half by a 3' thick fire wall. When it was completed, the Minneapolis Journal described it as "one of the most commanding buildings in Minneapolis". It was the largest wholesale facility west of Chicago at the time.

Selecting Harry W. Jones (born 1859, died 1935) as the architect for an industrial warehouse would have to be described as unusual. The reputation that this MIT graduate had established for himself was primarily in the field of "Church Architecture". He designed the Scottish Rite Temple, 2011 Dupont Avenue South, the Calvary Baptist Church, 2608 Blaisdale Avenue, and the award-winning Lakewood Cemetery Chapel. He also was the architect of the Washburn water tower, the old Imperial Hotel (torn down to make way for the Hyatt Regency) as well as many luxury homes in the Minneapolis area. With those commissions he displayed a gift for working with sophisticated materials and talented artisans and established himself as one of the premier architects of the area.

1908

Butler Brothers Building was completed and one of its first tenants was the Butler Brothers, a small goods retailer with a thriving mail order business. Eventually the company started a chain of department stores in small towns in the Upper Midwest. The Butler Building served as a distribution center and showroom for the company, even boasting a rail spur for the loading of merchandise into boxcarts bound for the Butler Brothers stores. For many years business boomed. As highways were extended throughout the region and trucking started to compete with the railroads, the congested urban location and multi-story design of the Butler Building rendered it obsolete.

1950s

Ben Franklin Company buys the building and uses it for storage.

1960s

The old warehouse sits empty and ignored.

1971

The Butler Brothers Warehouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places saving it from future demolition. It was recognized as one of the foremost architectural designs in Minneapolis.

1972

The Butler Brothers Building was purchased by Charles Coyer, The community watched as Charles Coyer, a Washington, D. C. based developer, teamed up with Miller Hanson Westerback Bell, Inc. To begin Phase I of the building’s restoration revving the aging warehouse and make the east half into an office-retail complex, with stores on the first two levels and offices in the upper seven. It was officially renamed BUTLER SQUARE. Actual renovation work began in the fall of 1973 and was completed in the fall of 1974. Key decisions involved the sensitive treatment of the exterior wall (the only portion of the building governed by preservation restrictions of the National Register of Historic Places), the introduction of the central atrium and the use of the raised floor to distribute mechanical and electrical systems and preserve the natural wood ceilings.

The development of an atrium in Butler Square is probably the key ingredient to its economic value and success. As a warehouse, too much interior space was trapped in the center for each floor without windows of natural light to be marketed successfully as office or commercial space. This, plus the relatively small exterior window openings, necessitated introducing more natural light into the building. The atrium concept first originated with the Egyptians, who used large clear story openings to light interior space of large one level structures.

1974

Butler Square east celebrates its grand openings as a commercial complex. The successful rebirth of Butler Square served as a catalyst for the surrounding area and was responsible for much of the restoration that has taken place in the Warehouse District. In 1975 the building received the Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects and the Bartlett Award for buildings designed for accessibility to the handicapped, as well as being featured in dozens of publications.

1980

James Binger purchased Butler Square to develop the west half of the building. James Binger (1916 – November 5, 2004), a former Honeywell chief executive officer and theater impresario, purchased Butler Square to develop the west half of the building. Special attention was given to a design that would be compatible with the first phase and improve on its performance. High efficiency mechanical and lighting systems were incorporated to minimize energy use. More of the existing structure was left in the atrium to expose the structural dignity of heavy timber construction. Three "glass-backed" elevators, located central to the atrium, provided a dramatic view of the space. Occupancy was achieved in 10 months with a "fast-track" construction system requiring the architect and contractor to begin design and construction at the same time. In 1991 the entire Butler Square building is owned by James Binger.

In honor of the building’s restoration completion, Mr. Binger presented Butler Square West with one of the interior’s most celebrated work of art – The Circus Fliers sculpture by New York sculpture George Segal to hang gracefully beneath the atrium canopy. Nearly a decade later, he added his Speed Astir Glider plane to soar majestically above the atrium of Butler Square East.

2007

Butler Square celebrates its Centennial. On October 10, 2007 Butler Square celebrated its “100 Birthday” with a big party. The theme of the party was history and art. There were 4 stages of actors (dressed in 1900’s attire) putting on 5 minute vignettes telling stories about the area’s history, 2 stages of “Living Art”, which involved live mannequins (people) being painted into a picture on a canvas by two different artists, and 2 aerialists that did beautiful aerial art from our beams in the atrium using nothing but flowing streams of material. There was a Time Capsule Contest where tenants submitted their own time capsule which will be put into one large time capsule that will be buried in the floor of the west atrium. A beautiful plaque “marks the spot."

2009

Butler Square receives LEED Butler Square was the first century-old, multi-tenant commercial building in the nation to achieve LEED-EB O&M certification (Existing Building Operations and Maintenance), the oldest building in Minnesota and Midwest to achieve LEED certification, and the first building in Minnesota to be certified under the LEED-ED O&M.

LEED which stands for Leadership in Energy Environmental Design is a benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings and a certification is granted by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). It is achieved by measuring performance against a building rating system that encourages a best-practice approach of developing, maintaining, and operating green buildings.

2015

Butler Square awarded LEED SILVER DESIGNATION. On May 21, 2015 Butler Square was awarded a LEED SILVER DESIGNATION (50 or more points out of 110).The building continues to operations through upgrading equipment with energy efficiency as a priority.

The designation of SILVER LEED is a remarkable achievement for a building that is over 100 years old.