In the summer of 1960, the Star Tribune sent photographers to snap a shot of every corner in downtown Minneapolis. This is the latest installment in a series that takes a closer look at those pictures, and passes on a few pieces of Minneapolis history.
Without any hints, it’s almost impossible for a modern resident to place this block.
If this was Wheel of Fortune, and the players were particularly dense, the board might say N-c-ll-t Av-n—. Buy a vowel — any vowel — and you’d get the location. But where?
There are many ways to prove the location — aside from the writing on the back of the picture — but this old postcard nails it:
Nicollet Avenue, between 3rd and 4th.
The second-floor windows on the building on the right match up, and the middle building — the Palace store on the left — has been stripped of its ornamentation, but it’s still the same structure. It’s the Great Minnesota store in the 1960 picture. Surplus goods.
The neighborhood wasn’t doing so well by 1960. At the turn of the century, though, it was the heart of downtown retail. Let’s go back to the first decade or so of the 20th century; in this Star Trib archive photo, we see the building on the end under construction.
It was the Maurice Rothschild store — eight modern stories replacing a gloomy old three-story brick box.
In the middle of the block, an old tower absent in the 1960 view: One of the city’s earliest skyscrapers, a work of fizzy madness.
The Minnesota Loan and Trust (1885-1920 or so; demolition date is unclear). It had a clock at the top, if anyone wanted to get out a telescope and give it a look. It was demolished for this building ...
It says Gardner Hardware, but that wasn’t the building’s original tenant. (Gardner moved to the North Loop around 1960, and apparently took its sign too. But it closed recently to make way for an "eatertainery.")
The sign’s gone now. But the old one gives you an idea who used to occupy the building: Woolworth’s. Gardner’s sign looks like an old Woolie sign.
Let’s go back to this old view ...
... and take a look at the upper floors of the oldest structure on the block.
The buildings are still around by 1960.
Everything to the left of the thin-windowed building was demolished. Here’s what they knocked down:
The Model Clothing house, with the corner sign advertising “SINCERITY CLOTHES.”
By 1960 it was crumbling and shabby, blighted by parking lots. Good space for billboards, though.
With a little Photoshop magic we can look at them straight on:
That’s one big bottle of liquor. No, it didn’t come in that size. In the early '60s Fleieschmann’s ran an ad campaign that showed a guy walking down the street carrying an enormous amount of hooch, emphasizing what a great value it was. Don Draper would have approved.
A local car dealership:
Against their will, apparently.
A local brand. Minnesota Historical Society:
“ 'Jenny Lee's' was first used by Minnesota Macaroni Co. in 1931. Name was changed to 'Jenny Lee' in 1951.” They had another brand that turned out to be more durable. You might have heard of it: Creamette.
Google, the early years.
Last detail: Masler’s mens wear, the last clothing store to occupy the old Model Clothing block.
The window had a sign that foretold the block’s future:
Building Coming Down.
The Sheraton-Ritz rose on the site for a few decades, but like much of the Gateway replacements, it fell to the wrecking ball after only a few decades of life.
The block today:
On the site today rises thirty floors of modern housing — the second attempt to remake this block of old downtown.