What's in it for me?
Plummer Building: A Tower of Clay
William Day Gates, head of the American Terra Cotta and Ceramic Company outside of Chicago, must have been thrilled when the blueprints arrived on his desk for the exterior cladding of the proposed Plummer Building in Rochester, Minnesota. At 295 feet high, it would be the tallest building in the state when completed in 1928.
Architectural terra cotta of this scale requires the labor of hundreds of highly skilled craftsmen whose job it is to transform the architect’s initial sketches into a finished, custom-made product. The manufacturer must work closely with both the architects and the construction crew to ensure that every piece is properly formed, glazed, and coded to fit together perfectly on site.1
Dr. Henry S. Plummer, for whom the building was named, was a scientist, physician and engineer who spent the last 36 years of his career (1900-1936) working at the Mayo Clinic during its formative years. His genius and energy were essential to Mayo’s early success and development.
Dr. Plummer, working closely with the building’s architects at Ellerbe & Co., played a key role in the architectural design of the building, which reflected the need for medical specialists to be able to work both independently and as a team. His designs and systems made the model of group medical practice possible.
The crowning glory atop this magnificent building is a 56-bell carillon with a range of 4.5 octaves. The first 23 bells, weighing just under 37,000 pounds, came from England. An additional 33 bells from Holland were added in 1977.
Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, nonprofit group practice in the world. More than 2,500 physicians and scientists and 42,000 allied health staff treat more than half a million people each year.
Joseph A. Taylor,
Tile Heritage Foundation
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