Mayo Memorial Building, 420 Delaware Street Southeast, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Mayo Memorial Building

Address: 420 Delaware Street SE
Neighborhood/s: University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, East Bank, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Academic Health Center (AHC), Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hennepin County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1954
Primary Style: Modern
Secondary Style: Italian Renaissance
Additions: 1911, 1924, 1925, 1928, 1938, 1954

Starting in 1911 to 1954 six medical buildings were added in the years listed above to create what is known today as the Mayo Memorial Building

Major Alterations: Intact
Historic Function: Hospital
Historic Function: Patient care/Research/ Education
Other Historic Function: Patient care/Research/ Education
Current Function: Hospital
Current Function: Patient care/Research/Education
Other Current Function: Patient care/Research/Education
Architect or source of design: Clarence H. Johnston Jr.
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Brick
Material of Foundation: Limestone
Part of the Site: [[Has site:=University of Minnesota, East Bank Campus, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Academic Health Center|Academic Health Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota]]

University of Minnesota, East Bank, Academic Health Center (AHC) Minneapolis Hennepin County

Mayo Memorial Building, 420 Delaware Street Southeast, Minneapolis, Minnesota
(44.972448° N, 93.234449° WLatitude: 44°58′20.813″N
Longitude: 93°14′4.016″W



The Mayo Memorial Building represents many architects’ work over the years. The modern tower is a representation of Clarence H. Johnston Jr.’s work. He was the son of architect Clarence H. Johnston Sr. who also worked for the University of Minnesota as a designer and member of the board of regents. This period between 1911 and 1954, marks the successive efforts of the first medical campus of its kind in the nation: the Mayo Memorial Building. The New Campus in 1911, was started with the establishment of the first educational hospital, Elliot Memorial. The Mayo Memorial facility embodies a range of successful building over 43 years; the foundations of what is the very powerful AHC of the University of Minnesota. Each hospital of the Mayo Building is a contributing feature towards this historic triumph of what is now recognized as a strong leader in medical education. It was a unique feature to have a system of hospitals and support medical buildings that had a real relationship with the University itself. Presently, the University’s Academic Health Center plan will demolish the entire Mayo facility, with exception of the 1954 tower addition. This plan started in 2000, and will continue through until 2020.


[NOTE: Construction of other medical/educational facilities was happening in concert with the Mayo Memorial complex expansion laid out below]

1911- Elliot Hospital built, the first building on the current AHC

The narrative of the Mayo Memorial Building begins in 1911, when Elliot Memorial Hospital was built, in the expansion area of the Cass Gilbert plan for the University and along Warren Manning’s East River Road. Elliot Hospital fulfilled what was just the beginning of the first university teaching hospital system, now acknowledged as the AHC, the Academic Health Center. Elliot Hospital was the epicenter in a group of hospital building planned by the regents and faculty. This plan was going to make the University very unique. The University hospital was to have a strong inter-relationship with the school itself. The construction of Elliot Hospital was made possible in 1905, by philanthropy. A practicing Minneapolis doctor, Adolphus Elliot gifted the University $115,000 to build the first teaching hospital. The State Legislature granted $40,000 for construction and $44,000. $42,000 was contributed by 38 wealthy citizens for purchasing the land. Names such as William H. Dunwoody, Alfred Pillsbury, Charles Pillsbury, L.S. Gillette and J.S. Bell to list a few (MPLS Journal Sept 1911). Elliot started with 115 beds and three focus areas: internal medicine, surgery and obstetrics. 186 students enrolled to obtain a degree in medicine by learning the latest medical techniques and providing free care to patients. The main mission started and still remains “to be a premier teaching facility serving the community.”

1924- Todd Memorial Hospital addition built on the east side of Elliot

In 1924, the Todd Memorial Hospital was built connected to the east side of Elliot Memorial Hospital. This addition was made possible through the monetary gifts by the widow of Dr. Todd. The following year in 1925, the University’s first specialty hospital was built and connected to Todd Memorial Hospital. The George Chase Christian Memorial Cancer Hospital was the last addition on the east side. A few years later in 1928, the west side of Elliot was added on to with the Eustis Hospital, also known as the Hospital and Home for Crippled Children.

1925- Christian Memorial Cancer Hospital built, the first specialty hospital built on the east side of Elliot

1928- Eustis Children’s Hospital addition built on the west side of Elliot

The Eustis addition was made possible by a monetary gift by Flour Industrialist William Eustis. The Eustis Hospital included an outpatient department, two floors were dedicated to the children’s hospital and an amphitheater for teaching. Most of these operations moved into the Mayo when it was built in 1954. William Eustis said, “The time is ripe under your guidance to establish here one of the great medical centers of the world…establish here a beacon light of medical science and research that shall for all ages redound to the glory of man’s genius and the highest welfare of his being.”

1929- Health Services, North Clinic, addition built to the north of Eustis Hospital

1936- Todd/Christian rooftop additions built for the Psychopathic hospital branch

1954- Mayo Memorial Hospital addition built

In 1954, the Mayo addition opened as a healthcare delivery and education facility designed by Clarence H. Jr. It was originally planned to be a twenty-two story building but due to the Korean War, an increase in cost of building materials and decreased State funding, only fourteen floors were built; there were many revisions to this building prior to construction. The Mayo Building was the last addition to what had been a steadily expanding agglomeration of hospital buildings in the New Campus area of the University of Minnesota.

Use and Function The Mayo Memorial Building with its multiple additions and surrounding buildings compose what was one of the very first medical campuses. The Mayo facility is a visual timeline that shows the gradual complexity of medical architecture. One can see how Elliot Hospital, once a 115 bed facility successfully grew into a 1,000 bed hospital. It marks an exciting period of growth where the hospital became an educational entity with training facilities, libraries, lecture halls, residential accommodation, research and specialized clinical services.

Form and Design One can maybe see how architects were struggling with the rapid increase in complexity and tried to develop design typologies and flow patterns to help logically organize the programs into an efficient and functional medical machine: the hospital. Architects were also trying to develop hospital typologies that would reduce total costs and allow for future growth. The Mayo is an example of how expansion was handled over time, to accommodate advanced specializations, with both horizontal and vertical building methods creating an independent-linked slab typology, a compact courtyard typology and a simple tower-on-podium planning typology. It is the ensemble of the additions that comprise the Mayo Memorial building which provide its strong historic significance. As the famous landscape architect, Fredrick Law Olmstead once said, “No amount of beauty in each individual building can ever compensate for the loss of the essential element of harmony and unity in the whole group of buildings. This harmony is to be secured by the unity of quality and color of materials and reasonable unity of style and design.”

Materials and Substance The medical buildings have a consistent design vocabulary that had been established with the first hospital, Elliot Memorial in 1911. The medical additions are red brick with limestone foundations and entablatures. Their facades are composed in a “tripartite pattern, with a base, middle and top” of a tame renaissance classical/Italian style (AHC urban plan) with pent roofs. The entrances are a dominant feature on the entry façade with repetitious window placements. However, the last addition in 1954 has a modern architectural style, with its simple form and clean straight lines.

Location and Setting The actual placement and location of the medical buildings paralleled a well-known architect’s work, the Cass Gilbert’s Expansion Plan for the University in 1908, and bordered famous landscape architect, Warren Manning’s East River Road, which had a great impact on the directionality of the University’s growth. Elliot hospital was the first implemented design to purposefully connect the University’s Old Campus, the knoll area and New Campus to the Mississippi River. Cass Gilbert’s Plan was filled with grand staircases, walks and detailed landscaping linking campus to the river which encouraged an ongoing relationship between new campus development and the Mississippi. The board of regents reserved a block of land in the area of Elliot hospital for the construction of other medical facilities delivered in a series of phases, starting from 1911 to 1954. The southwest corner, of what is now called the Academic Health Center declines with the sloping contours of the limestone bluff. Mayo’s location on the 100’ high bluff on the river is significant to its history. Today, the AHC shares a border with East River Road and the Mississippi River to the south, the housing superblock to the east, the Institute of Technology, Washington Ave and Stadium Village to the north and Grace University Lutheran Church and the south mall to the west. These are areas very active with high volumes of students and traffic.

Spirit and Feeling Mayo’s center for spirituality and meditation is a special feature of the Mayo Hospital that contributes to its overall value. It is located on the ground floor at the end of a long corridor, off of the main lobby. It is placed in the courtyard of Mayo and serves as a quiet place for families, patients and visitors. The building architecturally embodies some Judeo-Christian symbols. It is ten sided with gothic arcs skirting around its base. Each of the 10 corners is treated with a tall stained-glass window that helps draw the eye upwards towards the sky where a roof of stained-glass and beam framework support a delicate sculpture of the burning bush. The colors gradually change from warm earthy colors to vibrant reds and oranges to cool and quiet colors at the top.

Intangible Heritage Holistically, Mayo Memorial embodies all the struggles the University encountered since its opening in 1851 to arrive at such a prominent level of what is now the Academic Health Center. Thousands of students enroll every year to work towards a creditable medical degree by working side by side with professionals in an operating hospital that serves its surrounding community and student body. It shows how the architecture of medical facilities changed over time in response to changing demands and growth of knowledge and technology, discovered on its own grounds. The University of Minnesota was also able to develop a working connection to the famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester and adapted their three prime areas of focus: patient care, research and education.


The affiliation of the Mayo Clinic at Rochester with the University of Minnesota resulted from an extended history of the rough beginnings of Medical School. The first medical schools were originated in the private school system. Some of the very first schools were Philadelphia Medical College in 1765, King’s College in New York 1771, Harvard Medical College in 1772, and Dartmouth Medical College, in 1779. In 1851, the University of Minnesota opened for enrollment and 32 years later engaged in the initial steps of formulating a medical department. It started as a non teaching, pure examination program which quickly evolved into a full-force medical school. By 1904, there were three colleges within the medical department operating out of buildings scattered throughout the Old Campus. A few years later in Rochester, the very first group practice opened in 1915, between Dr. Charlie Mayo and his two physician sons, Will and Charles. The annual number of operations sky-rocketed and the success of the medical practice called for additional trained hands. The Mayo brothers recruited graduates of medical schools around the nation, but enforced a three year course plan of pathology, clinical diagnosis and surgery. However, the Mayo Clinic has no standing as an educational institution, so no degree could be awarded to those students. This spurred the Mayo brother’s interest in medical education and research. In 1919, the Mayo Clinic became a non-profit foundation with a trademark mission of patient care, research and education. This meant the Mayo physicians would be paid a salary and would not share the proceeds of their practice. All the proceeds after operating expenses were met were contributed to patient care, research and education. A nonprofit endowment for the University of Minnesota was established called the Mayo Foundation For Medical Education and Research. This endowment was a sore topic to the the faculty and Dean of the Medical College, Harold Diehl. It was thought that Dr. Will Mayo, member of the University’s board of regents, mission was to slowly kill the success of the University’s Medical College. Following the death of Dr. Charles and William Mayo in 1939, Diehl proposed a memorial devoted to the Mayo brothers, Dr. Will as regent and Dr. Charley as Professor of surgery. Diehl made it public knowledge that a dedicated memorial was most appropriate for the University’s campus after all the millions of dollars and services provided by the brothers and not long after, the Mayo Memorial Hospital was built. However, Diehl knew the Mayo brothers had done everything in their power to prevent the growth of the University as a leader of clinical research and in reality, the endowment money had been spent in Rochester not the University of Minnesota.


Hospitals are like cars, once they open they are out of date. Today hospitals take longer to build. This explains why many project teams choose to engage in design and construction simultaneously. The Mayo Memorial Building was constructed in 1954. The entire complex has three sub levels below Washington Ave. Level 0 (Washington Ave level) housed five stations, six clinics, social service, main lobby, a concourse entry inside on the north end, the meditation room and a cafeteria. The first level (one level above Washington Ave) housed the department of surgery: operating rooms, recovery rooms and patient rooms and an amphitheatre for educational purposes. The Mayo Memorial Hospital, served as a patient care facility and a research office space which transferred over to Fairview in 1996. The Mayo Memorial Building was designed with limited space and resources. The tower on a podium design typology was an appropriate architectural solution due to a restricted site and low budget. The other buildings that preceded the Mayo Building were delivered in a series of self-contained phases. Elliot, Todd, Christian and Eustis Hospitals are individually and collectively designed to be monumental with their brick facades trimmed with stone. Narrow corridors were designed for cross ventilation purposes and 11 foot floor-to-floor depths. These medical buildings are designed in a tame Renaissance Italian/classic style with consistent color and material treatments. They have a formal sense and minor details to keep costs low. They were built to last with reinforced concrete and brick. However, from 1911 up to the 1954 modern Mayo addition, the plan organization of these hospitals worked. It was a loose-fit building strategy, with varying dimensions that fit the requirements of the different departments. The sub levels and first five floors linked for ease of back and forth travel. The loose-fit building strategy is a great method for complex, ever-changing specialist teaching, research hospitals. This approach, which characterizes the University of Minnesota, requires large sites with plenty of space for future expansions. This is a horizontal focused approach, whereas the Mayo addition is a vertical approach. The low-rise additions of the Mayo building are very circuitous. The way in which the addition linked, they form three courtyards which creates very lengthy roundabout courses; the corridors do not provide straight paths to a destination. The flow between departments is laid out in two fashions, tree typology and the circuit typology. The combination of the two program layout typologies makes the Mayo Memorial Building difficult to navigate. As stated earlier, the corridors are very circuitous lacking efficient straight lines of access. This is due to the way in the additions were connected to each other created a compacted courtyard form.


Currently there exists a 20 year phased plan for the AHC, Academic Health Center to provide properly zoned areas for the three main functions: research, education and clinical outreach services, as well as design quality issues. The low-rise buildings that make-up the Mayo Memorial Building will be demolished and research and office towers will take their place. The Mayo’s southeast wing and parking garage will also be demolished for the creation of a central landscaped square.



Visit the link below for information regarding the University of Minnesota's AHC 20 year plan.


    Academic Health Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota

    Academic Health Center Hstory Project: Building the AHC archives from the ground up [[1]]

    University of Minnesota, Academic Health Center, Minneapolis District Plan 2000 to 2020 [[2]]


    1.Academic Health Center History Project: Building the AHC archives from the ground up. Categories: AHC Documents, Facilities, Hospitals, Medical School, News, Perspectives, and Project Admin. AHC and University Libraries. October 18, 2011. <>.

    2.Garcia-Diaz, Alberto, J. MacGregor Smith. Facilities Planning and Design. Pearson Education Inc. 2008.

    3.James, Paul M., William Tatton-Brown. Hospitals: Design and Development. Architectural Press Ltd,London. 1986.

    4.History of Medicine at the University of Minnesota and the Twin Cities Metropolitan area (1840 to about 1950). History of Neurology, Medical School, University of Minnesota. Oct. 17, 2011. <>.

    5.Turner, Harvey, Director of Campus Planning Team, University of Minnesota. Academic Health Center-Minneapolis District Plan 2000 to 2020. Academic Health Center Minneapolis Planning Team. May 2001. Pgs 1-146.

    6.Twin Cities Campus Maps: Mayo Memorial Building. 2008-10 Regents of the University of Minnesota. Oct 05, 2011 <>.


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