Minneapolis skyscrapers, with North Star Blankets at left.

photo by: Paul VanDerWerf, Flickr

October 27, 2015

The Restoration of the North Star Blankets Sign

  • By: Nick Totten

Did you see the neat blurb about the North Star Blankets neon sign in the Fall 2015 issue of Preservation? Here's more background -- plus more photos! -- to shed extra light on this cool slice of preservation.

In the chilly city of Minneapolis, the center of the North Star State, stands the building and the sign of North Star Blankets. The 1900s blanket factory went into decline during the Great Depression and was since abandoned. The building was renovated in the 1990s to become a condominium, but the North Star sign was deteriorating.

The North Star Lofts Homeowners Association, made up of the condo residents, came together to discuss the future of the historic sign. They decided to apply for a grant from the Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, which sets aside a portion of state tax revenue to be used towards historic preservation in Minnesota.

Their first application called for $105,000 to restore the sign, but it was turned down. Over the next year, the condo association brought in consultants and a historical architect to prepare a more thorough report on the current state of the sign and what it would take to preserve it properly.

This second grant application, submitted in 2013, was successful and the project received over $240,000. Restoration work began in June 2014.

North Star Blankets Sign at Night.

photo by: Roger Hale

The North Star Blankets sign before restoration, as seen at dusk.

Removal of North Star Blankets Sign.

photo by: Roger Hale

The scaffolding section of the North Star Blankets sign is removed for restoration.

The restoration project is almost finished. The Homeowners Association, working with Miller Dunwiddie Architecture, is now in the approval process for placing the sign back on the building, as well as replacing the mortar and paint on the brick walls. They recently received approval to add LED lights on the sign, which will replicate the old neon lights. The project completion date is not certain, but the residents and the architecture firm hope to see it completed by the end of the year, perhaps by the end of November.

This project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

Nick Totten is an editorial intern at the National Trust. He takes particular delight in historic museums and libraries. In addition, he enjoys performing music, playing with words, and appreciating the local sites and views on foot.

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