Late afternoon on the last day of 2014, I impulsively grabbed my camera and drove to 2320 Colfax to visit the Orth house, just outside the northwest corner of the North Wedge Neighborhood, for the last time. Designed and built by the legendary Theron P. Healy, the house represents Healy’s transition from the prevailing Queen Anne architectural style towards the about to emerge Colonial Revival Style. Despite valiant efforts and legal challenges by The Healy Project, the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission and activist neighbors, demolition ordered by the building’s owner at this time is only days away.
My weakness in architecture is that once in a while I think buildings can speak to us. A matter of fact, I know they can.
As I stood with my camera across the corner, I concentrated on the best photographic view. All the while, the Orth House stood silent. I paused to hear its death row last words. Nothing came. Instead its architectural message was the same as always – despite unwise alterations that tried to make it another generic structure left behind in serving what Minneapolis strives to be, I was astonished to sense it proud and in command of the corner of West 24th Street and Colfax right up to its impending end.
Back at my computer, I put the film card in the card reader, then saw how I errantly over-exposed the best of the three images. I knew my photographic skills should never have allowed this. My initial efforts using Photoshop to rebuild the image of consistent value did not work.
Then something came through. I somehow managed to render the image into the once-fashionable solarized effect. Colors flattened out into a mosaic of tiny abstract facets. The sky, trees and snow likewise obliged.
Now the Orth house spoke to me – “Let me show you my enigmatic persona in my last few days before my colors becomes dull slivers and awkward chunks fit only for landfill.”