A smokestack is just a smokestack?


Isn’t that a gorgeous picture? Teresa Boardman of the St. Paul Real Estate blog took it (used by permission). As I mentioned the other day, Teresa is a supporter of the notion of preserving the smokestack at Xcel’s High Bridge plant in St. Paul, the one they’re going to blow up on Saturday morning.

“It’s just a smokestack,” someone said in the comments section to the above post. True, enough. To appreciate the High Bridge smokestack, you have to think of it as representing something other than what it was — the dumping ground for pollution from a coal-burning power plant.

Smokestacks, though, represent industrialization, which used to be considered a good thing.

Cleveland, when it built Jacob’s Field (I refuse to call it Progressive Field), understood that by designing the light towers to portray smokestacks.


The smokestacks in Cleveland fouled the air in a city where they still joke about the time the river caught on fire, and yet they symbolized something greater.

That, I presume, is what Teresa sees in the smokestack, which is in its final hours as one of the dominating features of the St. Paul skyline.

Which brings us to…. the St. Paul skyline.

A skyline should make a statement about the city to all those who are about to enter it. Absent a symbol of the city’s past (along with a demolished brewery from some years ago), what statement will the St. Paul skyline make now?

On the way in from the eastern front today, I noticed the Capitol is now partly obscured from sections of I-94, by the addition to Regions Hospital. We have a bank building with the big red “1” still dominating the skyline. St. Paul: A good place to get sick and cash a check.

There is the Cathedral of St. Paul, of course. It’s a gorgeous building, to be sure. But it somehow stands apart from the downtown skyline, as if it’s in this city, but not of this city.

Tomorrow, by the way, News Cut will be accepting your pictures of the demolition of the smokestack. We’ll be providing video from this end. Use this form to send me your favorite shot. And if you want to provide some prose about the stack, I’ll be happy to include that, too.

Update Reader Sean Garrick has sent a photo he took Wednesday evening.