The Germania Bank building is the only remaining brownstone “skyscraper” in Saint Paul. The eight-story building was built by the bank in 1889 for $150,000 and is covered in lovely red Lake Superior sandstone. It was designed to house shops on the main level, the Germania Bank on the second floor, and offices on the six floors above. 

The office floors were laid out along the length of the building with offices on each side opening to a long, central corridor. The main staircase featured slate treads and decorative iron posts and grillwork. An elevator was available from the 5th Street entrance and was enclosed by similar iron grillwork to the staircase.

The bank didn’t stay in the building long. By 1900, they had closed their office in St Paul. The name was changed to the Ernst Building after the bank moved out, but most people in St Paul still referred to it as the Germania Bank building. 

Several of the building’s intricate iron pieces were removed prior to 1970 to bring the building up to fire code and stored in the basement. In 1971, a Minneapolis architect/developer with a keen eye for salvaging historic materials purchased the iron cage that once enclosed the elevator and some of the posts and grillwork from the staircase of the old Germania Bank building. He reused the materials at the Loring Towers in Minneapolis. 

Today, the majority of the building is office space. The interior has been modernized but small pieces of its historic character remain. The exterior, however, has changed very little over the past 131 years.