New Greycoats video pays eerie tribute to Foshay Tower

The Minneapolis band Greycoats just released a video for its song “Foshay,” dedicated to ‘the first skyscraper west of the Mississippi.’

Directed by local filmmaker Braden Lee, the video combines images of a ballet dancer in an abandoned warehouse, old film clips, and the signing of a ledger book.

Greycoats’ Jon Reine sings the lyrics:

On the boulevard
Our Bonaparte revealed a work of art
Watched it fall apart
The orchestra, waiting to start

Here in the valley of ashes you lift your eyes
Stretch out your arms ’cause you’re haunted by the light

Lift your monument like Washington
The ghostly dream-ship flies
Sink into the earth, to Leavenworth
Where dreams go to die

Here in the sky, remain
Here in the sky, Foshay
Here in the sky, your name
Here in the sky…

Here in the garden of knowing you take a bite
Stretch out your arms ’cause you’re haunted by the light

Braden Lee posted this about Foshay:

In his younger years, Wilbur Foshay was an art student with a fond appreciation for the Washington monument. “It is beautiful, but with windows it would be useful.” He made his fortune buying public utilities and selling the stocks, using his money to fulfill a lifelong dream.

Completing the tower in 1929, Foshay invited 25,000 guests to an elaborate three-day dedication ceremony. Cabinet members, senators and congressman received all-expenses paid trips. Half-nude dancers entertained. The military gave 19-gun salutes. Each guest received a gold pocket watch. John Philips Sousa conducted music, including a march he wrote just for the occasion.

Two months later, Sousa’s $20,000 check bounced. The market crashed. Foshay lost everything. Including the tower. In retaliation, Sousa prohibited the playing of the march so long as the debt remained outstanding.

Much like the fictional Jay Gatsby, Foshay was a self-made man who tried to buy his way into a community, but was never accepted. He wanted something he could never be and, like Gatsby, took a tragic turn.

In 1932, Foshay was convicted of mail fraud and sent to Leavenworth for running a pyramid scheme with his investors’ money. He was pardoned a few years later, but died in relative obscurity.

His tower stands today. And the name ‘FOSHAY’, in 10-foot letters, still lights up the Minneapolis sky, 400 feet above the earth. The names of those whose lives he coveted have mostly been forgotten, resting inches from the ground.

Greycoats perform tomorrow night at Amsterdam Bar and Hall with Grant Hart.