Medical Arts Building

Dan Brodkin

Controversy flared up in the summer of 1992 when local doctor Stanley T. Kucera had a striking mural painted on the side of the Medical Arts Building. Kucera had moved to Northfield in 1939. Nine years later, he had built the Medical Arts Building for his practice.

The mural was intended to memorialize his early achievements. The Northfield Historical Society (NHS), however, did not see things that way. It argued that the Medical Arts Building’s mural, adjacent to Northfield’s historic district, undermined the district’s historical value. It also asked why some of the town’s early physicians were memorialized while others were not.

Despite the legal battle, Kucera’s artist rapidly completed his project. By far and away the most problematic part of the completed mural was its caduceus—or what was intended to be one. The image of the staff of Hermes, often mistaken as a historical symbol of medicine, as rendered in the mural, appeared blatantly phallic. Carleton students found the image so ugly that they displayed the mural twice in the student newspaper’s humor section the following year.

A subsequent owner repainted the back of the building and erased the mural. Carleton purchased the building in 2012 and currently uses it for administrative and fund-raising offices.