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Landmark Hastings building stays in the family

Abra Hovgaard stands outside the “Frank Lloyd Wright building,” which she purchased from her mother last winter. The building is home to her Edward Jones financial firm. Star Gazette photos by Katrina Styx 1 / 2
While the exterior of the building makes it look squat, the inside features vaulted ceilings and lots of windows. 2 / 2

Abra Hovgaard’s office in Hastings has been one of the city’s landmark structures since it was constructed in 1959. While Hovgaard’s runs an Edward Jones financial investment firm there, it’s commonly known as “the Frank Lloyd Wright building,” since its design bears the famous architect’s signature.

Now, the building has also joined the ranks of second-generation businesses in Hastings. Hovgaard is the fourth owner. She purchased it from her mother last December, following the death of her father, Mike Hovgaard, who had owned the firm since 1983 and the building since 1991.

It’s not certain whether or not Wright ever came to Hastings. The building wasn’t even finished before he died. In fact, Hastings might not even have a Frank Lloyd Wright design if it weren’t for Thomas Olson, an apprentice of Wright’s who has ties to Hastings. Olson described the history in a document for a Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy meeting in September, 2000. When Olson visited Hastings in the 1950s, Dr. Herman Fasbender Jr. asked him to design a new clinic. Olson, as an apprentice, wasn’t able to do the design, but brought the request to Wright instead. Wright had Olson draw up some plans, made some changes and put his stamp of approval – his signature within a red box – on the design documents.

The building that exists today isn’t exactly what Wright designed, however. To save money on construction, the roof material was swapped. Instead of using copper as designed, builders put on a tern metal roof and painted it turquoise to look like aged copper. After Mike and Cindy Hovgaard bought it in 1991, the roof was updated and now has a real copper roof. He also had the parking lot, sidewalks and landscaping redone.

Mike Hovgaard made a few interior changes as well. He converted small clinic exam rooms into larger office spaces. He removed some old fixtures, replaced carpets and repaired worn or damaged walls.

“Everything else is fairly true to what it was,” Abra Hovgaard said.

Renovations have been carefully done to preserve Wright’s design concepts as much as possible. Some elements, like the mahogany walls, are still original.

Dr. Fasbender ran his medical clinic out of the building from its construction in 1959 until the early 1980s. Then it became the Thibido/Kugler dental office until Mike Hovgaard bought it in 1991.

Mike Hovgaard had already been working with Edward Jones, but his previous locations had, in one way or another, forced him to relocate several times. The frequent transitions were disruptive enough to the business that he decided he needed to buy his own building, and he managed to buy the Wright building.

Mike Hovgaard had a vision of creating a family business, and that’s exactly what he got. His wife, Cindy, helped out with administration. Abra Hovgaard said she remembers putting stamps and return addresses on business mail on the weekends with her sister when she was 8 or 9 years old. She helped out around the office during the summers when she was in high school, and in 2004 she officially joined her father’s firm full-time.

“I kind of grew up with it,” she said.

With the last batch of interior renovations done in 2013, Abra Hovgaard said she’s looking forward to keeping the iconic building and preserving it for future generations.

“It’s so recognizable, which is great,” she said, “and we’re really proud of it.”