ROCHESTER, Minn. – There is no question that this election cycle has been a heated one.
But back in 1928, there was also a very contentious presidential race between Herbert Hoover and Al Smith, and what few people know is that particular race has a unique connection to Mayo Clinic’s oldest building.
When Dr. Henry Plummer was designing the Plummer Building, he decided to immortalize the 1928 presidential election. On the side of the building facing Second Street SW, about a story up, you can see the images of an elephant and a donkey, representing the two political parties.
Plummer was a loyal Republican and had a friendly rivalry with the chairman of the National Democratic Party, so when Hoover won the election, Plummer decided to add carvings of an elephant with its head held high — and a very defeated looking donkey.
“The friendship there is carved in stone here on the Plummer building,” explains Matthew Dacy, the Director of Heritage Hall Museum at Mayo Clinic. “With all the committee approvals and things, they received permission to kind of have a little iconic moment of that time when the building opened and Mr. Hoover became president.”
That friend of Plummer’s was John Raskob, who went on to build the Empire State Building a few years later.
Besides the political symbols, Plummer included many other graphic designs in the building that represented what life was like in Minnesota and spoke to the time of which the building opened.
This week, Mayo Clinic is celebrating its annual Heritage Days and this year the focus is on Dr. Plummer and the historic building in his name.