The Minnesota Milk Company: Art Deco on the Avenue

Sculptural detail from the Minnesota Milk Company Building. Photo by Michael Koop

by Michael Koop

In 2006, St. Paul-based Old Home Foods closed its production plant located on the southeast corner of University and Western Avenues. The future of the 46,000 square-foot building is currently in question.

Originally built in 1912 as a two-story brick building for the Minnesota Milk Company,the structure was designed by Charles H. Berger and featured a large cow emblem above the entrance flanked by a pair of enormous milk bottles. In 1932, architect Charles Hausler updated the building in a sleek Art Deco design. The new design included a stepped entrance tower at the corner, at the top of which is a bas-relief sculpture of a young girl and boy—which the company’s advertising christened “Mistress Polly Plump” and “Master Henry Husky”—embracing a large milk bottle. Hausler covered the walls with cut stone and a polished black granite base from Cold Spring Granite Company, highlighted the cornice with chevron and zigzag motifs, replaced the wood windows with steel sash, and installed terrazzo floors. Among other notable accomplishments, Charles A. Hausler (1889-1971) had served as St. Paul’s first City Architect (1914-22), during which he designed numerous schools and libraries,including the Beaux-Arts style Arlington
Hills, Riverview, and St. Anthony Park branch libraries, all built in 1916-17.

The Minnesota Milk Company Building,has been determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

This story was originally published in the Preservation Journal of Saint Paul, Spring 2008.