Minnesota History authors Greg Gaut and Marsha Neff have won the biennial David Stanley Gebhard Article Award for “Downsizing the Public Realm: Building and Razing Winona’s Grand Post Office,” which appeared in the magazine’s Summer 2013 issue. Issued by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, the award considers articles focusing on some historical aspect of the built environment and published between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2013.
“Buildings ultimately represent the values of the creators,” the authors say. “Public buildings, in particular, reflect the political, economic, and cultural priorities of the societies that construct them.” “Downsizing” clearly makes that case. In 1891, the city of Winona proudly dedicated its imposing Romanesque-style stone post office, after citizens had convinced the federal government to enlarge its initial building plans, increase the budget, and spring for more expensive materials. In the 1950s, businessmen, led by the Chamber of Commerce, launched the fight–which they ultimately won–to tear down that “old fashioned monument” and erect a modern, one-story, no frills post office, taking out a city park to do so. The park was deemed a luxury and the new building “a fresh, clean look for a fine old city.” Two eras, two buildings, and a seismic shift in understanding the public realm.
A three-judge panel selects the winning article from a minimum of five submissions. Gaut and Neff won the same award in 2008 for their work on the successful fight to preserve Winona’s county courthouse.