'1st' again: St. Paul's iconic First National Bank Building changes hands


It's apparently a big day for iconic red signs in the Twin Cities.

On the same day the old "Pillsbury's Best Flower" sign was scheduled to be relit at its rightful place overlooking the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, it was announced that St. Paul's equally historic First National Bank Building would be sold.

You know the one – the giant neon "1st" sign that sits atop it has been a mainstay of the capital city for over 80 years.

The building, which opened in 1931 and spent decades as the tallest structure in St. Paul, will be purchased by Madison Equities, a local property owner, the Star Tribune reports.

The paper says the deal – which comes just three years after the building was bought by its current owner, Nightingale Properties, of New York – is expected to close next week.

The Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal says Madison is buying the property for "an undisclosed sum," but noted that it was purchased by Nightingale in 2012 for $19.4 million.

There's a lot more to this deal than just the iconic "1st" building, however.

The Pioneer Press reports that the First National Bank Building is in fact comprised of three separate but connected structures – the east, west and north towers.

The "east," the publication says, is currently vacant but being eyed by Madison for "repurposing," though company officials did not specify any plans.

A towering figure

The building opened in 1931 and was finally dethroned as St. Paul's tallest in 1986, its official website says.

Another factoid from the site: "the small skyway between the East and West towers" is said to be the first in the city.

According to an MPR News piece, it's been quite a while since this famous "bank" actually housed a bank, with First National having moved on long ago. Around the turn of the millennium, U.S. Bank finally uprooted to another location across the Mississippi, the station wrote.

The glow of that landmark sign, by the way, can be seen up to 75 miles away at night, the property claims.

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Iconic 1st National Bank Building in downtown St. Paul has a new owner

The historic 662,000-square-foot tower, known for its neon 1st sign, was sold to a New York City investment group for a little more than $19.8 million. The Business Journal notes Houston-based Fairfield Financial Group bought the First National Bank Building in January 2007 for $27.1 million.