Project DescriptionThe Minnesota Military Family Tribute was designed to pay tribute to our military families rather than memorialize the soldier or conflict – a first of its kind. From the steps of the Beaux-Arts Minnesota State Capitol designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert in 1905, the rolling 18-acre Mall fans outward to include the Minnesota World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and other monuments that draw thousands of visitors annually.
Located along the southern half of the Capitol Mall, the Minnesota Military Family Tribute anchors the existing military memorials. Rather than tied to a single war or event, the Family Tribute honors the spouses, significant others, children, parents, grandparents, siblings and others who provided home-front support to military personnel, from the Civil War to the unfolding Middle East conflict. As such, the Family Tribute holds deep meaning for all Minnesota’s military and nonmilitary families—and hopefully inspires other states to build similar tributes.
Through plant materials, paving, stone and bronze, the 1.5-acre Family Tribute explores the concept of home and family through spatial experiences, formal seasonal plantings, and geological artifact tied to the celestial sky. Three main design elements unify the Family Tribute—The Walkway, The Story Stones, and The Gold Star Table. These motifs reaffirm the themes “Support Our Troops” and “Take Care of My Family.”
The curving, tree-lined Thank You Military and Veteran Family Walkway embraces the Capitol Mall veterans memorials and connects the two major elements of the Family Tribute—the Story Stones on the east and the Gold Star Table on the west. The graceful arc responds to the seasons with rows of maples trees that provide dappled shade in the summer, vibrant colors in the fall, and gray bark against freshly fallen snow in the winter. Red Gardens of red flowering plants at each end of the Walkway invite visitors in, where they are inspired to Remember Everyone Deployed (R.E.D.).
The Story Stones are a series of 87 large stones representing the geological heritage of each of Minnesota’s 87 counties. Arranged along the promenade’s eastern end in a field of crushed stone, the Story Stones serve as a unique visual connection between loved ones that are deployed and their families at home. Correspondences sent between soldiers and family members from the Civil War to the present are engraved onto the stones, providing a window into the lives of military families and their sacrifices.
Finally, The Gold Star Table at the Walkway’s western end recognizes the sacrifice of Gold Star families. Made of bronze, the table recalls the traditional table where families gather to share dinner, stories, and laughter—a familiar symbol of domesticity, respect, and solemnity. A five-point foundation with a polished surface supports the table and signifies the Gold Star, a symbol used since 1917 to acknowledge the loss of a loved one in military service. Northern hemisphere constellations shine through penetrations in the table’s surface and create a guide to the night sky. Polaris, the North Star, is emphasized as a constant navigational guide home and also refers to Minnesota’s state motto L’Étoile du Nord, The Star of the North. Throughout the planning process, the design team searched for themes that were personal and transcendent. One of the most powerful metaphors is the sky, the moon and the stars, which connect military families when their soldiers are deployed.