Lost Twin Cities III

Lost Twin Cities III premiers tonight (December 7) on Twin Cities Public Television (TPT). As you can guess, it was preceded by Lost Twin Cities I and II. I was interviewed for III earlier this year, but my segment about the Terrace Theater in Robbinsdale (more about that in a minute) ended up on the cutting room floor. To get me in the mood for this evening’s premiere, I dusted off my old VHS tape of the original Lost Twin Cities and watched it along with two members of PAM’s junior squad (my two children, ages 10 and 8). It was a special experience for all three of us, and not just because I let them watch TV on a school night.

Former WCCO news anchor Dave Moore narrated the first two shows, and I was startled to realize that, despite having had the Channel 4 newscasts as the audio backdrop to my childhood, I had forgotten what he sounded like. His words were especially poignant after learning from Don Shelby that Moore, who died in 1998, was an outspoken preservationist. Shelby, who succeeded Moore both at WCCO and as narrator for the Lost Twin Cities series, revealed at last week’s private preview party that Moore often pounded his fist on the newsdesk in frustration while decrying the demolition of yet another historic resource.

The show’s introduction shows black-and-white footage of imploding buildings set to the dramatic score of Carmina Burana. The male member of the PAM junior squad was so fascinated that he asked me to rewind the tape and show it again. I must have given him a nasty look, because he hastily told me that, while he liked watching the buildings fall down, he would never do it himself. (Whew, that’s a relief.) Later in the episode, towards the end of a moving montage chronicling the demolition of the Metropolitan Building in Minneapolis, my daughter left the comfort of the couch to sidle up next to me on the floor. She needed a hug.

I was pleased to see that not everything profiled in the original Lost Twin Cities has actually been lost. There was a lengthy segment about the Union Depot in St. Paul, now undergoing restoration as a multi-modal transportation hub. Back in 1996, its future looked bleak, as did that of the Milwaukee Road Depot in Minneapolis, which was also highlighted in the episode. How remarkable that, in these two instances at least, we have the benefit of hindsight and can see that stalling demolition—and holding out for a viable reuse—was worth the effort.

When I learned that my segment on the Terrace Theater would be delayed until the next production, I wasn’t entirely disappointed. After all, the theater—a Modern movie palace built in 1950 at the very beginning of the Twin Cities’ suburban expansion—is still standing and doesn’t actually qualify as “lost.” By the time Lost Twin Cities IV airs, maybe the renovation of the Terrace will be underway. Or maybe my son will, once again, be thrilled (and hopefully appalled at the same time) as the video footage that accompanies the narration shows another imploding building—and wasted opportunity.

Our collective fascination with the “lost” can be distressing to those of us who do preservation day in and day out. I do wonder why there has not yet been a video production of “Saved Twin Cities.” Do average viewers take our historic buildings for granted, assuming that they’ll always be there, or that someone else will champion their reuse? (Don’t they realize how few of us career preservationists there really are??) Why is it that “saved” stories don’t resonate the way the crack of the wrecking ball does? When will our success stories get the dramatic musical scores they deserve?

That said, be sure to tune in to Lost Twin Cities III tonight at 7 p.m. on Channel 2 and watch the first two specials on MN Video Vault.

by Erin Hanafin Berg, Field Representative

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