In the summer of 1960, the Star Tribune sent photographers to snap a shot of every block in downtown Minneapolis. Every corner, every storefront, every vacant lot, every modernist facade and skid row flophouse. This is the first installment in a series that takes a closer look at the pictures, and passes on a few pieces of Minneapolis history.
Skogmo Reigns: the corner of Hennepin and 8th.
It's a rare downtown view now: almost unchanged after more than a half a century.
When 800 Hennepin Avenue was constructed in 1909, it was the Pence Automobile Company Building. Lower Hennepin Avenue was the center of the town's new automobile district, and the Pence was the place to get your plugs and belts, or look at a new car.
Eventually the automobile industry moved to the ‘burbs, and the building became the HQ for Gamble-Skogmo. It’s a curious name that means little to anyone under 35 today. (Unless you Googled that "Gamble" store sign on an episode of Fargo last season.)
They were a retail conglomerate, and they were huge. From Wikipedia:
“Business operated or franchised by Gamble-Skogmo included Gambles hardware and auto supply stores, Woman's World and Mode O'Day clothing stores, J.M. McDonald department stores, Leath Furniture stores, Tempo and Buckeye Mart Discount Stores, Howard's Brandiscount Department Stores, Rasco Variety Stores, Sarco Outlet Stores, Toy World, Rasco-Tempo, Red Owl Grocery, Snyder Drug and the Aldens mail-order company.”
Red Owl and Snyder: now as dead as Gamble-Skogmo. Everything else fell to Wal-Mart and Target.
The ground floor held another bygone local brand:
The Lincoln Office of the Northwestern National Bank. On the corner: a tiny Weatherball.
One more look at this retail group, which was part of the State Theater complex:
Across the street, a Snyder’s drug. Not just any Snyders, though.
It looks junky in 1960 - but when it opened just 12 years before, it was the marvel of downtown.
A four-alarm fire had wiped out the old drug store the previous year. This post-war marvel celebrated its new HQ with an ad that blared its ultra-modern joys. Electric Humidified Washed Air!
The ad also touted a “sound-proof acoustical ceiling,” and said “Undesired noises are eliminated. Shop in comfort.” The kitchen boasted an “automatic conveyor for the disposal and sterilizing of soiled glasses and dinnerware.” In other words, a dishwashing machine.
The building still exists. It's had a few different lives; in the 80s it was Hennepin Avenue's most colorful Burger King. When Block E knocked down the porn district, Shinder's moved all their mags to the old Snyders location.
Now it's nicely rehabbed with a restaurant on the roof.
Spin around 360: the corner doesn't just look the same as 1960. It's the same as 1947.