With spring being in the air, along with a ton of pollen, my wife and I are planning out what events we want to attend. One event during May that we often plan to attend is Art-A-Whirl in Northeast Minneapolis (NE MPLS). One of the buildings that encompasses Art-A-Whirl is the Thorp Building along Central Ave. One odd thing about the Thorp building is that guard towers surround it, but why?

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The Thorp Building, which is located in NE MPLS at the intersection of Central Ave NE and NE 18th Ave, was used during World War II by the government to build bomb sights.

Atlas Obscura tells the story of the towers:

The General Mills Mechanical Division used the building to produce the now-famous Norden Bombsight, which was, at the time, the best precision bombing device in the world.

The production of this secret weapon was so important to the Allied war effort, the security of the project rivaled that of the Manhattan Project in New York, involving the OSS, the FBI, and the US Navy. 

All this security was, however, somewhat too late. The details of the bombsight had been passed to the Germans by Norden employee—and German spy—Herman W. Lang in 1941.

The sights were a top-secret advantage that needed to be protected, so guard towers were erected around the property. There seems to be just 1 left standing from what I've seen, and you can still see the base of a second tower off NE 18th Ave, near the railroad bridge.

Image Credit: Google Maps
Image Credit: Google Maps
Image Credit: Google Maps
Image Credit: Google Maps

The only one that I can confirm is still standing is the tower in the rear parking lot by Tattersall Distillery.

If you find yourself in the area this spring or summer take a moment to check it out, and think about how different things were during that time.

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