Interiors Awards 2018: Historic Restoration
Designer: ESG Architecture & Design
Client: Fe Equus Development and Aparium Hotel Group
“The designers respected the building and kept just the right amount of rawness. New and old all just blend so beautifully. Interiors and furnishings are delicately inserted, and the material palette is beautifully detailed.” —Jury
Breathing new life into a 120-year-old building, the Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis is refined and contemporary, showcasing Minnesota’s culture in a way that residents and visitors alike can celebrate. “Our design goal was to create a hotel for locals, to embody who we are in Minneapolis without being cheesy or clichéd,” says Ann Fritz, the director of interiors at Minneapolis-based ESG Architecture & Design, which oversaw the project.
The historic nature of the Jackson Building—built in 1897 and used as a farm implement showroom and warehouse—inspired the renovation and interior design of the 124-room hotel within. Located in the hip North Loop neighborhood near the Mississippi River, where numerous structures related to the timber and flour-milling industries have been converted to modern uses, the 93,000- square-foot building boasts 13-foot-tall windows, exposed old-growth pine beams, Cream City brick walls, and distinctive exterior masonry.
The boarded-up behemoth sat forebodingly on a prominent corner until Tim Dixon of Milwaukee-based Fe Equus Development, a partner with Aparium Hotel Group, saw its potential. Knowing Minneapolis’s history as a center for large sawmills and hewing—as the process of cutting logs into lumber is known—he reveled in the building’s rough ambience.
“The interior is rich in feel,” says Dixon, who was not interested in a pretty hotel. “Instead, give me a highly functional, compelling, and approachable design based on local identity, where guests never need to leave the hotel because the local culture is right there.”
The local culture starts with the building itself. A new steel-and-glass vestibule opens into the lobby and lounge, where original wood floors lead to a fireplace of blackened steel surrounded by comfortable furnishings and shelves. The ground floor also includes the Tullibee restaurant, a bar, a wine cellar, and a ballroom.
Portions of floors two through five were removed to create an atrium, topped with a skylight, that exposes the distinct framing methods used on each floor. (The building originally had only two floors, and additional floors were added over time.) Teardrop-shaped handblown silver-and-purple glass fixtures by the Foci Minnesota Center for Glass Arts float within the atrium, creating “purple rain” in tribute to the musician, and native son, Prince.
The hotel’s finishes “are all real materials—such as solid wood, leather, steel, copper, and zinc—that will patina over time,” Fritz says. “We also specified materials Minnesotans gravitate toward—wool and flannel, as well as the plaid pattern—without stereotyping ourselves as lumberjacks.” Custom Nordic-inspired patterns are discretely incorporated, and local products fill the guestrooms: casegoods by Blu Dot, blankets from Faribault Mills, and Tattersall gin stocked in the minibars. ESG designed wallcoverings that abstract pine trees, ducks, and oars as intricate graphics.
To preserve the physical structure, ESG collaborated with the National Park Service and State Historic Preservation Office. A shoring system was installed in order to cut new shafts for elevators and stairways and to remove structural columns to open up space for the ballroom. The original fifth floor and roof of the two west bays were removed and rebuilt, and a sixth floor was added for a rooftop deck, bar, and spa.
“Creating a comfortable environment in which spaces feel curated, thoughtful, and intentional was our goal, to celebrate the building and our culture,” Fritz says. “This is us.”