The Best of Ed Shannon: Part 4

Published 9:40 am Saturday, October 27, 2012

Graphic by Kathy Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in an eight-part series featuring some of former Tribune writer Ed Shannon’s best work. This article originally published Sept. 6, 2009.


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There are three ways to define the word turret. One way is to say this word describes a revolving structure on a tank or warship that contains one or more guns. A second way is to use this word for a round appendage on an aircraft where a member of the nation’s armed forces performs duties as a turret gunner. The third way is to use this word to describe a small tower-like structure that’s part of a residence or building. And here in Albert Lea there are still several examples of an architectural feature that was once very popular.

The local examples of home with turrets are based mostly on the era of the fancy Victorian type of architecture. To be more specific, many of these homes, with and without turrets, are of the Queen Anne style that were very stylish in the 1880s and 1890s.

A turret can have a circular top, a pointed roof or another kind of apex. It might contain a staircase if it projects higher than the building; however, a turret is not necessarily higher than the rest of the building. It’s typically part of a room that can be walked into. Some buildings also have turrets that project out somewhat from the edge of the building, rather than continuing down to the ground. The size of this type of turret is limited by technology, since it puts additional stresses on the structure of the building. Thus, it would be traditionally be supported by a corbel.

Now there’s another word needing further definition. A corbel is a large bracket-shaped architectural feature that projects from a wall and supports a weight. And here in Albert Lea there are five corbels that once helped to support turrets.

One of the most prominent of these corbels is visible on the roof line of the former St. Paul Clothing House/Bible Book Store building at the corner of South Broadway Avenue and West Main Street. This structure is now being converted into the future Community Cornerstone.

The other four corbels are on the historic Freeborn County Courthouse. They served as bases for rooftop turrets which were removed from this building many years ago.

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