Project Spotlight

Park Your…Elephant!?

Parking, parking structure, parking garage, parking design, architecture, engineer, planning, parking consultant

In 1957, Enco Engineering and Richard C. Rich designed a multi-purpose complex for the Dayton Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This new structure was built to replace an obsolete 400-car attendant parking garage, warehouses, and retail stores. Built to provide for a 700-car, self-service parking deck, this new structure included retail shops on the east side of the first floor, warehousing in a sub-basement, delivery truck docks in the first basement, docking and loading space for large trucks on the west side of the first floor, and warehouse space on the mezzanine. The garage was constructed as a sloped-floor, 60-degree angle parking with a spiral down ramp. At the time, the supporting columns of the open area parking decks were designed to support two additional floors.

Subsequently, in 1963, the Dayton Company requested designs for expanding the use of the structure, including additional parking levels and a top floor exhibition hall. It was determined that a 20,000 square foot Exhibition Hall, seating 2,000, could be added above the additional floors of the already existing parking garage.

The exhibition hall, which is also a clear-span structure, was built with large folding doors to separate the interior spaces and has been used for a wide variety of functions. This new area has a complete stage and dressing room unit, and a large loading door opening from the parking deck area. It connects directly to the store, and also with the parking areas.

Here is what Richard C. Rich recalls from the 1963 requests to expand the structure to accommodate for a top floor Exhibition Hall.

“In 1963 I got a call from Daytons Department store in Minneapolis (having done the original garage in 1957) they requested I re-design the structure to accommodate for two more floors of parking. They also asked if they could put an exhibition hall on the top (8th) floor. We had several meetings regarding the exhibition hall and agreed that there would be sufficient strength on the already standing building to support their new requests. They wanted to connect the new exhibition hall to the 8th floor of the already existing department store.

During the discussions we asked what kind of exhibitions’ they were going to be hosting in the new hall since they requested sliding doors so they could partition off the hall and use it for multiple functions. The discussions led to the talk of bringing in a circus to the new exhibition hall which led to the question of what kind of animals will be in this circus. The reply was elephants and other types of animals. I asked how they were going to get the elephants up to the 8th floor of the store and they said they were going to walk them up the parking floors. I looked at him and said I would have to check that out because I didn’t know how much an elephant weighed, but judging from their size it was going to be more than the sloped floors of the garage could handle. During our break I called the zoo and asked what a typical circus elephant weighed, they told me give or take 8,000lbs. Since an elephant will have two feet on the ground at any one time, it would be 4,000lbs of footprint at a time, far exceeding the live load of the parking floors. I went back to the meeting and suggested that walking the elephants up the parking floors would not work and would result in large cracks in the floors. We decided to put an outdoor hatch on the back side of the building, so that if they ever had the big elephants they could lift them by crane and slip them in the back side of the building.

We went ahead with the project and designed the entire building with the interior exhibition hall. During the actual operations they decided it would be too much to bring the elephants onto a crane and into the back of the exhibition hall. The circus decided to bring in baby elephants which caused a minor uproar. Because they were taking the baby elephants up the passenger elevators and up to the exhibition hall, as you could imagine, they spent a lot of time cleaning up the large deposits of dung in the elevator that were left behind from the elephants.”


*The Minneapolis multi-purpose parking structure as basically designed and constructed.


*The complete additions which increased the parking facilities and the Exhibition Hall which increases the utilization of the structure.


*Interior of the Exhibition Hall with mechanized partition in place for smaller exhibits demonstrates the many possible combinations of usage available, one large hall or a group of smaller areas which may be used simultaneously, large folding doors were installed to separate spaces within the Exhibition Space.


*Public acceptance of facilities of this type is obviously indicated in this use of the Exhibition Hall.



*This is a page from Mr. Rich’s project journal from 1958. This image details the price per square foot and price per parking space ($2,426) in which it cost to construct Daytons Dept. Store parking garage in 1958.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *