Foster Dunwiddie doesn’t need an elevator as a resident of Vista Prairie at Brentwood in Rice Lake. Brentwood is built on one level. Foster knows a lot about elevators, though, as a pioneering architect with a rich history in iconic public buildings, including the old Met Stadium in Bloomington, Minn. It was the original home of the Minnesota Twins after they moved from Washington, DC. He recalled a big design challenge caused by a budget shortfall early on.

“The initial design had a shaft for an elevator, but we couldn’t afford the elevator,” Dunwiddie recalled in a video about his career. “Once we got a commitment from the Washington Senators that they were coming, funds loosened up a great deal.”

Now 95, the retiree was educated at the University of Wisconsin as a civil engineer but an interest in sketching eventually drew him to the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota. He later helped establish the firm of Miller Dunwiddie, where he remained for most of his 50+ year career. He became best known for his groundbreaking work in accessibility as a member of the Architectural Barriers Committee of the Minnesota Society of Architects.

“I had broken both my heels in a construction accident,” Dunwiddie remembers. “I suddenly found myself confined to a wheelchair and facing the problems of those in a wheelchair.” He pointed out at that time, there wasn’t legislation requiring the accommodations we have today. “I was lobbying the State Legislature to revise the Minnesota Building Code to require handicapped parking spaces, accessible door entry-ways and restroom modifications for people in wheelchairs.”

His other key contribution was in historic preservation. He pioneered what he described as a “detective project” to ensure that the restoration of Ft. Snelling was historically accurate. He also designed restorations for the Minnesota State Capitol building in the mid 1980’s.

“We had to make sure the public spaces were accessible so that witnesses for hearings could get into the building,” he said. “I also restored the House and the Senate chambers to make them accessible to people with disabilities.”

He and his wife, Shirley, moved to Brentwood in 2011. Shirley passed away a year ago, a short time after they had moved into memory care. “They’ve been very responsible meeting my needs here,” he concludes. And about the food? “I belong to the clean-plate club, and I’ve been working overtime.”

The Brentwood community offers 28 one- and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who value their independence but want options for personal care and supportive services. It also offers 19 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

(Copyright © 2021 APG Media)

Load comments