Leroy S. Buffington was a prominent architect here in Minneapolis in the 1880s through the 1920s. He, along with his very
talented draftsman Harvey Ellis, designed many buildings
here in Minneapolis, quite a few of which still stand.
I think Buffington thought of himself as a visionary. He thought buildings should be designed by Architects rather than by
engineers. His main claim to fame was an ill-fated patent on skyscrapers. He submitted to the patent office in 1887
a patent application for a 28 story steel-framed building. He was granted a patent on his building and the construction process
on May 22, 1888. Even though just one year later the 13 story Tacoma building in Chicago used a similar construction
technique, Buffington never saw any money from his patent in that case, or in any other. As a sort of charitable gesture, Rufus
Rand paid him someting like $3,000 for the Rand Tower on 6th and Marquette here in Minneapolis in 1928. Buffington spent a lot of
money and time pursuing the issue legally, but ended up with nothing to show for it.
Buffington was a favorite of the Pillsbury family. For them he and Ellis designed the Pillsbury "A" Mill,
Charles A. Pillsbury's house, and Pillsbury Hall at the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities East Bank
Buffington also designed several other buildings at the University of Minnesota. Starting with Eddy hall in 1995, he designed
Pillsbury Hall in 1887, Nicholson Hall in 1890 and Burton Hall in 1894. Eddy Hall is a tall and old looking building that has
been added on to several times. The main entrance was redesigned in 1903 and accessability was added in 1992. Pillsbury Hall
was originally the Science Hall, Nicholson Hall was originally built as the Chemical Labratory Building and Burton Hall was
the old Library. Where it should be easy to see that Pillsbury Hall and Nicholson Hall are at least related in their general
style, Eddy Hall looks more plain and vertical and Burton Hall is very spare and more Classically designed.
He designed many other buildings around town including the first main branch of the Minneapolis Public Library. This imposing
building sat on the South corner of 10th Street and Hennepin Avenue. Today this is directly across the street from the new
Downtown Magnate School and kitty corner from National Camera's wedge-shaped building next to the Orpheum Theater. This building
was torn down in 1961, but prior to that, as one looked Westward down Hennepin, the view was terminated in this dark red
The Boston Block was a more vertically oriented building in the lower loop. I believe it was located on Hennepin Ave either where
the Public Library is now, or where the high-rise apartment building is across the street. James Lileks has a nice bit on it on
Buffington and Ellis also had a hand in the first North Dakota State Capitol Building that burned down in 1930.