Saturday, December 31, 2011

Foreign Lands: Beaver Pelts During Typhoon?

Once again, this isn't technically a ghost, as the business is still in operation, but as I just got back from China, I thought I should try to bring you something from overseas, and this is as close as I got.

This sign is in Hong Kong, near the intersection of Des Voeux Central and Chiu Lung Street, or, more parochially, between the China-like part of Hong Kong and the New York-like part.  I was a little surprised that there would be much of a market for fur in Hong Kong's humid subtropical climate, and yet it's apparently one of the world's biggest exporters of fine fur.  Apparently status trumps common sense and morality.  I guess that shouldn't be a surprise.

See a product label here and a related sign here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Can We Get Some Swiss Cake Rolls?

You probably wouldn't notice as it's not going to be a major change from the recent pace, but I'm going to be away for a bit, so you'll just have to wait awhile for the next post (which I think will be #90).  Hopefully this one will be sufficiently satisfying to hold you over.  If you really want to do it up first-class-prison-style, get yourself some water to enjoy while you read.

So, yeah, this is a sign a long abandoned Holsum Bakery Thrift Store on 5th Street North.  This is a pretty desolate bit of town these days, as the area is surrounded by a few major roadways and the county incinerator.  I have vague recollections of one of these stores from growing up, but I'm pretty sure it was somewhere in the north suburbs and not here in industrial downtown.

You can see this sign with a different set of tags here.  You can see in my shot that those tags were painted over some time before what now looks like "River Silk" came about.  Actually, as I look at that older shot more closely it says, "Riv" in large letters and "river" in smaller ones too.  I have no idea whether that's a gang thing or just a street artist thing, but this isn't the only tag in the Twin Cities with those words.  The Google streetview truck apparently came by in between tags. Check out some more shots here and here.

At some point, I think I read something about the role of a thrift shop like this, which sold discounted day old bread and bakery products, for the poor of the city.  Unfortunately, I can't find that source right now.  So I will leave you with a link to a less moving but still interesting (in a very different way) article about the history of the Holsum brand.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Now I'm Starving

This one's not really a ghost, as Kramarczuk's is a going concern, but I like the sign and it's a Nordeast institution.  If you live in the Twin Cities and have you haven't heard of it, well, you must be under a rock or something.  If you haven't been there, your taste buds, at least the ones that like things like Polish sausage and cabbage and potatoes and things, should be waging a silent war on your heathen soul.

What I didn't know is that Wasyl and Anna Kramarczuk were from Ukraine and came to America in the late 1940s.  Their "about" page is a bit vague on the details as to when they opened the deli, but let's just go with "a long time ago."  Here's Walter and Horace K., and a good amount of their fine product in 1998.

Somehow I didn't know that it was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  Guy Fieri says the sausage making started in 1954 with Anna and Wasyl, but the cafeteria was added in 1976 (a good year) by their son.  Hopefully none of the various generations of Kramarczuk's caused Guy to freak out on account teh gay.

I really should not have posted this just before lunch.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Foreign Lands: Tin In Your Pocket?

So this is another in my actually foreign, "foreign lands" series.  This one is in Denmark, and in Copenhagen to be specific (as you might be able to tell from the "Kobenhavns" in the leftward region of the sign).  This shot was taken while on the boat tour of the city's canals.  I tend to be pretty skeptical of that type of tour, but this one was actually fairly worthwhile, in that you could get a good sense of the city's layout from the water.

Unfortunately, I speak even less Danish than I do German, so I'm not going to have a lot to say about the sign itself.   My notes say "near the Royal Pavallion."  I've figured out where that is, but I don't know much about what.  If I recall, this may have been where the royals embarked and disembarked from their yachts, but that may not be right.

Anyway, please insert whatever lame chew joke you image I might have made here.  Meanwhile, "smokeless tobacco" kills, kids, don't do it!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Only Partly Spooky

 I was back on campus twice this week with the return of college basketball season, so let's head back to Dinkytown.  This building has paint-on-brick signs on three sides that are s snapshot of both the past and today.

Let's start with the present.  Annie's Parlour is a burger and malt institution that's been there since I don't know when.  Well, I say institution but I've only been there a few times and the last was at least twelve years ago, but hey, it's still there, so it's got that going for it.  It doesn't seem that to have its own webpage, but it shows up on a variety of user review sites.   This shot from Flickr gives a good perspective of the balcony that overlooks the space where the railroad tracks that may be the source of Dinkytown's name used to be.

 Next up is the partially ghost bit.  Ragstock still exists, but not at this location.  It's a second hand clothing company (started in 1954 to import and export used clothes) that operated at this location from 1979 to 2002 but closed due to declining sales and increasing rent.  I paid fifteen bucks there for a leather trench coat for a Halloween costume in college, but I moved away in 1999 and that clearly was the beginning of the end.  I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to the Dinkytown community.  It's all my fault.  It's the Kitty Kat Klub today.

The last sign, as you can see, is for Art Materials Inc.  I'm running short on time, and it's a pretty generic name, so I'll just leave you with a couple of old adds in the Minnesota Daily from Aug. of 1980 (pdf, pg. 12) and Nov. 1982 (pdf, pg. 13).

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today!

After reading the article I linked to in yesterday's post, about how Bloomington Avenue between Franklin and Lake used to be one of the city's most troubled streets, I got to thinking about the fact that I chose to walk on it precisely because it seemed less sketchy than some of the surrounding area.  I was curious about whether the renaissance that was projected in 2003 was real, or whether the bursting of the housing bubble set the neighborhood back.  There was only one way to find out.  That's right, I needed to give it another pass in the middle of the day on a bright, sunny, weekend afternoon.  Don't pretend that you don't know that's when the real heavy sh*t goes down.

Conveniently, having put in a hard half hour's worth of blogging, I decided that I should go get some beer (is there ever a bad time?) and headed over to Harriet Brewing to bolster my hipster street cred (only to undermine it again by not buying anything because they only had the West Side "Belgian" IPA which is way too hoppy for my taste even though I love Beligian beer and have never encountered anything from Belgium that is that heavy in hops).  I've brought home growlers from Harriet at least a half dozens times, but still I can never figure out the most efficient way to get there from my house.  But now that I know that Bloomington connects Franklin and Lake, I figured why not swing by and see how things are going, and then hook a left on Lake to get some tasty beverage?

So, I guess I won't keep you in suspense any longer.  Things looked fine.  I didn't see any noticeable prostitution or drug dealing, so, you know, yay! for urban redevelopment. (ETA: Apparently the heavy stuff was on the other side of town that afternoon.)

I did, however, find out that I had been delinquent on my last trip because I didn't even notice, much less snap, this sign that's just down the block from Welna's.  It's on the side of the NAWAYEE Center School, and alternative high school focused on American Indian youth.  With my priorities clearly focused on beer, I didn't bother to get out of the car to take this picture, which unfortunately means that it's a little hard to read (ah, the limitations of iPhone photography on an outdated phone).

But if you look closely you can see that it says "John A. Dalsin and Son" and "Sheet Metal And Roofing Contractors."  Turns out, the company's still around, or was whenever that website was built.  We are apparently on the third generation of Dalsin's, and the company dates to 1912. The Historical Society has a photo of the installation of shelves at a Dalsin Hardware at this address in 1949.  Finally, it seems our Mr. John A. Dalsin purchased some land somewhere in Minneapolis for $2,400 in 1906, but I don't know if that lot in "Petter's addition" is this property.

There is no word on Mr. Daslin's views about the innocence of the roofers who were slaughtered upon the destruction of the second Death Star.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Yeah, You Blend

Here we have Welna Hardware in the Phillips neighborhood on Bloomington Avenue in South Minneapolis.  There's not much mystery to this sign, and there is a newer, larger version of the store across the street.  But for now the old store and its old sign are preserved, if somewhat under-utilized (it seemed to be only used for storage when I went by).  The store was apparently in this building for at least fifty years before remodeling the new building across the street, although the building has gotta be older than that.  Back in 2003, MPR described this street as one of Minneapolis's most rundown and crime infested, with the remodeled Welna's as part of its renaissance.  I didn't see any overt prostitution or drug selling when I went buy one weekend in the early afternoon, but it still didn't feel like the greatest neighborhood for a stroll to me.

I got this one after wandering a bit too much in the 'hood.  While crossing through the park at the Cedar Avenue Fields, a young gentleman, after asking me for a cigarette that I didn't have, decided that I was with the police.  He announced to people in the park, "don't f*ck with that n*****, he's a narc").  It didn't really seem like anyone was preparing to f with me, and I really think I would make for a crappy undercover cop in a predominantly Native American neighborhood, but whatever.  It gets the blood flowing, you know.

ETA:  Upon further reflection, the young gentleman in question may actually have asked me if I "smoked."  Only after thinking about it yesterday did it occur to me that he probably did not mean cigarettes, and that his interest in the question may not have been solely driven out of curiosity.  Hmm.  Another way in which I did not blend, I guess.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Featuring Cedric The Entertainer?

It was closed when I went by, and seems to have been for awhile, but this is sort of from the 'hood.  Glenwood Barbers, is, surprisingly, on Glenwood Avenue in North Minneapolis.   It looks like it might have been there for awhile, but I've found very little about this business.  About all I've got is that others have snapped in on Flickr.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

To The Moon?

If you can read this one, on the side of 708 3rd St., you have better eyesight than I. But lo!, I have a hint for you:

We have some pretty cool-looking stone work, providing a longer-lasting, readable reminder for what the side used to say in paint. And if that's not cool enough for you, check out the front entryway:

So, all this screams, "hey, there used to be a lot of money in this business" to me. It's part of my my agricultural series, and a reminder of how this region made its mark (well, its second mark) off the region's farms.

Emerson Newton, of Batavia, IL, as you can see, built this building in 1904, and, along with its neighbor (coming soon), is on the national register of historic places. Unfortunately, I've got a lot more on the building than on the company.

The historical society has a number of old images, from 1906, 1974 (with a United Warehouse painted on the side, oddly enough), and 1966, with an Allis-Chalmers sign visible on the side. It's not particularly relevant, but it has renewed significance for me because grandfather used to have a farm implement business in Clear Lake, WI. He died years ago, but I learned just last week, at his brother's funeral (just a few days short of 99), he sold Allis Chalmers machinery. So, basically, this means that these guys are sort of the competition, and, therefore, sort of evil.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Foreign Lands: Emeril's Ancestral Home?

Here's another one from my recent vacation. Let me begin with a warning that this post is not even remotely factual. As someone who is largely ignorant of the culture and history of Germany, I'm making this stuff up, people.

So, now that I've appropriately wet the blanket, this shot is from Bamberg, in the northern part of Bavaria. I've been to Germany a number of times, but this one was a new stop, and well worth the visit for its Rathaus perched amid the river in prime position to collect tolls.

We arrived in town after a fairly healthy drive from Berlin, which meant that the older members of the party went in immediate search of a restroom. Having found one in the tourist information office, I also stumbled upon this smokestack labelled "HB." And here's where we get speculative. For all I know, "HB" means "baker" or "factory" or something general in German. But to me, those two letters mean beer, as featured in the logo of the Hofbrau, of Hofbrauhaus in Munich. So I'm going with that.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Close Personal Friends

It's post #80, which means I need a landmark, but I'm not sure I've got anything that qualifies. Nonetheless, I'll stretch a little (like the Vikings picking Christian Ponder with the twelfth pick), and use the authentic 1940s styled signs of Murray's. It kind of looks like something from 2005 that is trying for an old-fashioned look, but this is the real deal.

I've never been, and I try not to eat red meat, but this is a place I have been hearing about since I was a little kid. Every Sunday morning I'd wake up to my dad listening to WCCO's Sports Huddle with Sidd and Dave, which has been bestowing Murray's silver butterknife steaks on guests for as long as I can remember. And all of a sudden I'm hungry.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Presumably Not Hand-Stolen In Stepney

The Vikings stadium saga is in the news again, so let's head back to the Metrodome neighborhood. This one is in the immediate vicinity of the hide and pelt dealer and the roller company. It looks to me like there are multiple layers of signs here, but they are rather hard to make out.

Most legible to me is "Jones Purchasing Agency" at the top of the sign. The Downtown Journal, having beaten me to the ghost hunting punch by more than a few years, mentions this particular sign but doesn't give any history. Sadly, I've not got too much else either, but the intervening years mean I get to take advantage of Google Books. And the company whose stated mission is to organize all the world's information has something for me. It seems that city records show that the agency proposed to provide a cement mixer to the city in Feb., 1911. So I guess they sold stuff. Who knew?

As long as I can remember, this has been a store selling sports souvenirs. I've never been in, but I'd always wondered how much business they actually get. Do people really cross the street from the dome to pick up a t-shirt? I guess I'm just not the type who buys a lots of commemorative I mean gear.

Explanation of the title here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Foreign Lands: I'm Gonna Make This Quick

I snapped this sign after stopping for decidedly mediocre "Italian" lunch during this weekend's road trip. It's just off the main drag in Alexandria, MN, not far from the town's antique shopping district, the stores of which have that strange, nausea inducing quality common to rooms full of old stuff. I've got little to say about the sign itself, except that it seems to say "Meat Market" and is on the side of a now-closed lunch place. And yes, I'm man enough to admit to a bit of weekend antique shopping (in my defense, it was unplanned and not my idea).

And I've got a three-picture update to my florist post. Turns out the front of the building is well-labeled too.

But apparently there used to be something else here too. The company is gone now, but the sign for Acorn, Inc. isn't. Do you think Michele Bachmann is personally responsible for them being defunct? (No, it's not that ACORN, probably something more like this)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Florists And The Hendersons

Here we have a pair of signs for florists, next to a small parking lot at 1 Ave. N and 3rd St. N. The colors and trade dress look similar (at least in their faded state), but one says "Lakeland Florist Supply Inc." and I think the other says, "Greenland Wholesale Florist" (could be Greenleaf too). Perhaps they were related. This must have been the parking lot for those businesses, but in looking around a bit, I didn't see much other evidence of anyone selling flowers.

A bit of Googling suggests that I am a poor reader, and that it is in fact, Greenleaf Wholesale Florist. The business was opened as a wholesale branch of a California flower grower in the late 1960s, but it seems they no longer have a Minneapolis location.

Lakeland Florist Supply, however, is still around, but seems to have moved to Edina. The historical society has a shot from 1974, which reminds me that I've seen the "Lakeland" sign on the front of the building but didn't manage to connect the dots. I'll have to go back and get a picture of that as well.

Writing On the Wall says these were painted over in gray, but I think he/she/they have their walls mixed up (they also give the wrong intersection). The signs are still there, but the businesses aren't.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It Was Fine Until The Giant Pool Of Money Came Along

This one intrigued me because I really couldn't make out what it said on the street, or in looking at the photo in my collection several times since. But I think I've got it now. Unfortunately, we are missing the identifying information, so there won't be all that much to say, but what is there says, "Seller of Real Estate And Loans."

The sign is on what looks like a row house that has lost it's neighbors on 26th St. E. There's a date on the front of the building that says 1887, so perhaps this is a hint of a real estate boom of the past.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Foreign Lands: This Time I Really Mean It

I just got back from a trip to Germany and Denmark, where I hoped to come back from real, honest-to-goodness, foreign signs (as opposed to those from St. Paul). Unfortunately, I didn't find many. Maybe it's that the cities are far older than the advertising era. Or maybe all the early 20th century outdoor advertising was destroyed in one of the many wars. Or maybe I didn't spend enough of my vacation lurking around decaying industrial areas (or the redeveloping areas in formerly decaying industrial areas). Or maybe there is some other reason why Germans don't want to be reminded of that period.

Anyway, I've got one from Germany, as you can see above. It's in Berlin, and, of course, in German. Unfortunately, I don't really speak any German, and Google Translate hasn't helped me with any of these words, but there was once someone named R. Leidel, who had some sort of business, which seems to have dated to 1893.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Legal Eagle Update

So, some antitrust lawyer I am, apparently. While I was wandering around the old factories near the railroad tracks and trying to research the history of Electric Machinery Manufacturing Company, its successor company was in the midst of an antitrust investigation of it's acquisition by GE (they bring good things to life).

The result of that investigation is a consent decree with the Department of Justice that requires GE to divest Converteam's Minneapolis facility. While it's not the one I snapped (as I said, it has been converted), it isn't far away.

I didn't even know there was a deal, but I guess it explains why I had a page view from someone in the UK googling "converteam minneapolis."

Anyway, it's a small world and I thought I'd share.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Keeping the Metric System Down

Back in North Minneapolis, we have Bardwell-Robinson Co., mill works of high grade interior finish. The company dates to 1873, via various name and ownership configurations and locations. These "extensive works" were built in 1885 and were one of twelve remaining companies in Minneapolis involved in the manufacture of sash, doors and blinds listed in Isaac Atwater's, History of the City of Minneapolis published in 1893.

You can get a copy of their Universal Millwork Design book, No. 20, from Amazon if you're willing to spend $99. At least it looks old.

Charles Bardwell, a civil war veteran, built the Bardwell-Ferrant House, featuring, no surprise, fancy woodwork and moldings. Despite periodic attempts at preservation, the house has been through some tough times. His son, L.J. Bardwell was born in 1872 and eventually came to be president of the company after his father's death in 1892. L.J. was active in Republican politics, but I've yet to be able to connect him to Winfield W. Bardwell, who ran for judge in 1836 with the slogan "Ask your lawyer -- he knows!" If that isn't sage advice, I don't know what is. (It looks like they are not related, but the slogan was too good not to include)

Not to be forgotten, the Robinson family has it origins in County Cork, Ireland, where my great-great-grandfather was born before immigrating (like many, many others from one of the poorer parts of that country). Like Judge Bardwell, H.A. Robinson (son of the Robinson that is one of the company's namesakes) was a mason. Hmm.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Foreign Lands: Austin With A Tarpaulin? Behave!

Sometimes in this "business," signs defy your expectations. Before I Googled (sorry, Larry Page, but I'm going to continue using it as a verb), I didn't think I'd be able to find out much about Powers Dry Goods. I figured it would be a long forgotten, single-location retailer in St. Paul that the internet never heard of.

But no. Its even got its own wikipedia page. Powers was a department store, founded under a different name, but renamed in 1881 when it was acquired by the Powers brothers of St. Paul. In 1903, The New York Times (pdf) announced the arrival (to something) of Mr. Knox and Miss Holland of the company as buyers. At it's peak it had 7 locations in the Twin Cities.

It was acquired again by Associated Dry Goods in 1920, which itself was acquired by Donaldsons. Minnesotans of sufficient age will remember when Donaldsons and Daytons were the two rival department stores, when each of the "dale" shopping centers around the metro area was anchored by both. Those days ended when the company was acquired again in 1987 and all the locations were converted to the Carson Pirie Scott brand, which didn't work out so well. After bankruptcy, Daytons ended up buying them (an interesting development from a competition perspective), but like nearly all department store tales these days, the story ends in a ultimate acquisition by Macy's. All hail the conquering May Company!

This sign is at 4th & Wacouta in Lowertown. It's previously been featured on Writing On The Wall and Flickr, while Nokohaha has an old postcard of the Minneapolis location and some additional history. The Historical Society gives us visual evidence of the sale of war bonds to ladies in Minneapolis (no word on whether the counterman went to stag parties at the Calhoun Building) and of a monstrous, man-eating, precursor to Disney's Flounder ostensibly created as a Christmas display in 1949.

Finally, yes, I'm try to set new lows in dorky post titles.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Rather than over-emphasize the bars of Cedar-Riverside, which are surprisingly post-worthy for a single neighborhood, I thought I'd combine them in a single post. In addition to these three, I had a shot of the legendary 400 Bar, which local mythology says was a key venue for Bob Dylan during his brief University of Minnesota days. The picture was pretty bad, though, so I must have deleted it. As you can see from the webpage, the place is not exactly a looker anyway.

Anyway, Grain Belt and the former Viking Bar are our first entry. Lileks jokes about the sign being in Dutch, but at one point it said "From perfect brewing water." As he notes, this bar used to have a fairly rough reputation, but apparently some good music. I lived nearby during my freshman and sophomore years, but never tried to drop in. This Flickr user got a great shot that shows that the former owners have gone fishing. It sounds like they at least had a good time on the way out.

Next up is Palmer's Bar. I've also never been, but with those signs, how could I not include it here? This place is literally in the shadow of the "crack stacks" off Cedar. But there has to be a story behind the dandy gentleman depicted on two sides, right?

The most recent Yelp! user to weigh in helpfully tells us that it's a great place to "get shitty," so, yeah, it's got that going for it. It's also listed on something called "thrifty hipster," although I really gotta question just how hipster a website that appears to value the availability of Heineken can really be. Last week I was at Nomad World Pub (no Heineken, thankfully) across the street, and I have to admit, there did seem to be a stream of hipsters on ironic bikes heading in the direction of Palmer's. Although come to think of if, the hipster crowd probably thinks that dude with the mustache is one of them.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Foreign Lands: Foreign Landmarks

For post #70, I'm breaking the rules a bit. Not that you guys would know, as these rules aren't written down anywhere, but I felt I needed to confess anyway. I'm not supposed to put foreign signs up here in the the premier, round-number spots. But right now that rule is in tension with the rule that every tenth posts is supposed to be something that can be legitimately called a landmark. It's a conundrum.

Anyway, I will console myself with the fact that it is at least beer. And, thanks to St. Paul's apparent lack of local loyalty, it's also beer we haven't covered before. So we've got that going for us. Which is nice.

It's the old Jacob Schmidt brewery. Jacob Schmidt immigrated from Bavaria in 1865, and after stints working at the Hamm and Schell breweries, moved to St. Paul and started brewing in 1884. After the original brewery burned down in 1900, they moved to this location on W. 7th St. The company stayed independent until 1955, before the first of several subsequent acquisitions. Schmidt stopped brewing at this location in 1990.

There have been subsequent attempts to make a go of it again, including by the Minnesota Brewing Company in 1991. They brewed the Pig's Eye, Landmark (as you can see, this landmark is also conveniently labelled "Landmark") and Grain Belt brands here until shutting down for good in 2002. Today there is talk of re-developing the space.

Be safe out there, because Big Jim is coming (apparently the American sportsman is afraid of him). Good thing you don't need a glass.

ETA: I can't believe that I let you down, esteemed reader, by failing to make the obvious Mongo reference. I wonder if the Candy Gram trick would work on Big Jim.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Perfect Harmony

Coke's "It's the real thing" slogan seemed familiar to me, so I was surprised that it can apparently be dated fairly specifically to 1969, leading into the famous "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" ad and song. I would have thought that such a famous slogan would lead to an abundance of online trivia, so I was a little surprised when I didn't get much beyond wikipedia and that image searching lead me pretty directly to two Flickr entries for this very sign. It's on Washington Ave. N. near Broadway.

My Google image search also turned up this, which I had to use because it features "Buddy Christ" from Kevin Smith's Dogma. I can't tell for sure, but while the site seems sincere, I would guess that the author knew the source of this image. But it's more fun to think that he wasn't in on the joke.

On an unrelated note, it seems the Witt's mystery needn't have been quite so puzzling, at least if I had been able to ask the folks who decorated the Lund's in Nordeast. I snapped this iPhone shot of the vintage photographs behind the cashiers:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Foreign Lands: Trout Or Seat Covers

We're back in St. Paul, not far from our favorite many-signed wall, with Jax Manufacturing Co. and friends. At first, I couldn't help but think of the exciting trout "fishing" opportunities of Jax Cafe, in particular because a friend was recently ignorantly mocking Minnesota fishing by referencing trout fishing in a stocked pond, but I think this is something different.

Writing On The Wall has already been here, noting that there are actually several layers of signs here. I'd like to explore the partially-covered signs, but I can't make out enough to go down that route, so I guess I have to stick to Jax. Unfortunately, I haven't got much on them either, except that some of them made seat covers for "autos" in 1940.

No surprise, but I'm not the first to snap it at 253 E. 4th St.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Muse News

This is illegible, but it's one of the paint on brick events that first got me thinking about this little exercise, so I thought I'd throw it up here. I've got nothing to say about the unreadable sign itself, so, with apologies to Jason Mewes, I thought I'd use this space for some updates on territory we've already traversed.

The Downtown Journal has a handy interactive map about what's going on in property development, which touches on several of the buildings we've covered. In no particular order:

The Pillsbury A Mill has a new proposal for loft style apartments (no surprise there). No word on whether or not this is the kind of "piecemeal" redevelopment that worried some.

The Nicollet is still off, and the developer isn't talking.

Our mysterious distributor of mystery products, which the Journal calls the Marvel Rack building, has a new restaurant owned by the governor's sons, with plans for additional retail.

Next door to Witts, which used to be a Chevy's, could now be getting a deli. That seems fitting for the area.

Also in neighborly news, this time in the space next to the Grain Belt Brewery, the city is looking at proposals for residential and/or mixed use development (my vote, as always, is for the latter).

Finally, it's not really an update, but for me the best news is that the on again, off again Lunds in my neighborhood is back on again. I could really use a place to stop for groceries on the way home from work (that isn't Target).

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bet He Had A Rad Helicopter

Back in the warehouse district, could this be an early prototype of iconic Minneapolis Skyways? Presumably, C.J. Duffey had offices and/or warehouse space on either side of the street, and really, who wants to go outside during a Minneapolis winter?

Even though it sounds like a 1980s cop show sidekick, the company is a paper wholesaler and "sister company" to Falk Paper. Perhaps old C.J. got sick of being assistant to the regional manager (note: yes, that's a gratuitous Office joke) and decided to break off from the mother ship.

The company's address is on Washington Ave N, but walkway here is over 3rd St. There's another sign on a different part of the building. The clock tower in the background is City Hall.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

There's No Crying In Roller Derby

Buildings' uses changes over time, and so do their signs. Right around the corner from the one for the gruesome collectors of animal bits, on the same building, we have Bingham Rollers. That's right, the famous champion of the 1920s and all time roller-derby great, Gloria Bingham, and her rag-tag band of bone-crushing compatriots used to have their offices here, conveniently next door to the Metrodome.

Either that or they used to sell rubber-coated rollers (sounds kinda naughty, right?) here. I'm guessing about the "sell" part because it isn't a very big building, so it doesn't really seem like a manufacturing facility. I think this company was Samuel Bingham Rollers, which had a 175 year history before being acquired by Finzer Roller in 2004. Or maybe it was just paid advertising. Unfortunately, the folks who wrote the press release really weren't interested in telling us much about Bingham, nor does it seem likely that they had antitrust counsel involved.

You can see both this one and Mack, May Co. on Flickr.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Better Get Jethro's Favorite Recipe

If you look closely, you can tell that it says, "Mack, May & Co." on top, and "Hides, Pelts" and other illegible things below. Thanks to Fins, Feather and Fur, the official bulletin of the Minnesota Department of Conservation, from April of 1928, we know that these folks apparently wanted you to send them your pelts, because, after all, they specialize in Muskrat! Never fear, though, they also dealt in wool, "in the grease." I don't know what that means, but let's just agree that it doesn't sound appealing.

This time I'll leave the lame jokes to others. The sign's on the back of 900 S. 3rd St.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Foreign Lands: One Wall; Several Signs: The Final Countdown

As our friends at Writing On The Wall have always recognized, this all is the side of the Master Framer's building. Naturally, they have their own sign. It's more than a little faded, but they have been offering custom picture and mirror frames, and restorations, since 1959. They are open during the light rail construction, which will one day allow me to ride in air conditioned (and perhaps more importantly heated) comfort across the Mississippi and over to Lowertown. Open, mind you, but not troubled to repaint their sign.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I Need A Nap

It's tantalizingly close to being legible. Obviously, they sold box springs, studio lounges (whatever that is) and spring filled mattresses. It may now be Twin Cities Paper Supply, and they may have obscured the sign on purpose (if so, a pox on them I say!).

I was about to give up, but I think I've got it! It's Land-O-Nod! (From the stuff-o-stuff school of branding, with at least one other local adherent). Google delivered that much, but having figured that out, I've not got all that much more to say. They apparently made mattresses (who woulda thunk) and got a trademark in 1965 for "chiropractic" that resulted in litigation with their rivals and an 8th Cir. opinion in 1983. I don't know what happened to them, but given that I haven't heard of them, they probably didn't last too much longer after that.

You can see what might have been a factory, warehouse or just show room at the intersection of Broadway and Tyler near Central NE.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tiny Hardware?

We are in Dinkytown for the first time, with this sign for William Simms Hardware. It's not actually been a hardware store for some time, but I haven't been able to find when it started or stopped functioning in that capacity. I lived not too far away for a couple of years while in college in the late 1990s, so I know the fun ended some time before that. I don't know whether Our Own Hardware was the chain of stores or a franchiser or cooperative, but it was sold out of existence in 1997.

As for origins, Mr. Simms was to be a member of the entertainment committees for the the 1915 National Retail Hardware Convention at the St. Paul Hotel, so it goes back at least to then. Apparently he lived quite close to work (how green of him), near 14th and Hennepin, at least as of 1922. Robert Simms, apparently a descendant of William, owned and operated the store before dying in Wisconsin at the age of 85 in 2003.

The store, on 14th Ave. SE, has been posted to Flickr a few times.

UPDATE:  Apparently I was wrong and it was still an operating hardware store when I lived in the neighborhood.  It closed in 2002.  My excuse is that one does not do many home improvement projects on the crumbling houses of the area that are rented pretty much exclusively to poor college students.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Poppin' Fresh!

Completing our survey of Falls-adjacent flour mills, it's time for Pillsbury. Perhaps the most famous of the local milling names (thanks to the blandness of General Mills), the "A" mill has been in the news fairly recently after being named as one of the most endangered historic places. The mill was completed in 1881 and was the largest flour mill in the world for 40 years. It stopped operating in 2003 and has since been through the redevelopment wringer.

Unlike the Washburn A Mill, this one never exploded, although its design, by an architect rather than an engineer, had trouble standing up to the vibrations produced by its massive machinery, leaving the outer walls of the original mill building bowed out by 22 inches at the top.

I took several pictures I thought were worth posting, but once I got a shot with the horse-drawn carriage out front, how couldn't I put it up top? It's vaguely reminiscent of the horse drawn carts in front of the mill in this 1884 postcard.

Not surprisingly, there are many old images available from the Historical Society. This one, showing a train preparing to leave from the center of the complex, makes me think that someone should do a comparison showing what things look like today. Hmm. Perhaps I have a new project idea.

Finally, I'd highlight this one, from around the turn of the 20th century, showing a smaller mill complex as well as the water flowing on the riverbank below the mill. If I was more familiar with mill terminology, I could probably describe it more accurately, but I'd bet the water there has already been through the waterwheels.

I'll leave you with one last shot, taken from across the river and showing the stone arch bridge and a bit more of the surrounding context:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Made Out Of Tungsten?

It's time to circle back and pick up a sign we skipped over from one of my earlier hunts. I'm going to keep is short and sweet, because the Edison Building is the same as the Lumber Exchange. Somebody writing for wikipedia seems to think its "now know as" Edison, but I don't think that's even remotely right. It's the Lumber Exchange, and if you happen to look at it from the right angle you might see there's a sign that says Edison on the back.

Melts Your Mouth, Not Your Lungs

I could swear that says, "Mailpress," but the "tobacco" clue made it pretty clear we weren't talking about blogging software. Turns out it's "Mail Pouch," which maybe I would have known had I ever shopped for "smokeless tobacco." I don't think I regret suffering decades of ignorance as the price of having never developed a disgusting habit.

The brand originated with the Bloch Brothers of Wheeling, PA, who started out making cigars in 1879. They made the chewing tobacco from cigar wrapper clippings. That sounds pretty unappealing to me, but I guess it worked because at one point they had more than 20,000 advertisements on barns across the country. Apparently some people like to go searching for the barn signs and you can buy various Mail Pouch memorabilia on ebay.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Foreign Lands: One Wall; Several Signs pt 2

We covered the more important beer aspects of this particular vertical fantasy of brick and paint in an earlier post. This time we have a product that "tastes better," which clearly must be a taste-sensing robot designed to surpass even the greatest sommelier in identifying the berry and citrus notes in fine wine. What's that you say? It's actually a Coca-Cola ad from the 1950s? And the whole "mistake a commonly understood statement for something else implausible schtick isn't actually funny?"

Okay, well, you don't have to be so mean about it.

Of course we also an ad for Anderson & Hedwall, which seems to have confounded prior blog attempts to identify it. Applying the best of both my google and legal fu, I can tell you they got sued. A workman's comp decision from 1940 says that some guy who was an "electrotyper" got a hernia, so I'm guess that means it was a print shop. Take that blogosphere!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Less Irritating In The Throat

So, I guess what the good people at the Electric Machinery Manufacturing Company did during their working hours is pretty obvious. That's right, they were a marketing consulting firm that advised clients on effective branding. Their founding philosophy was picking a name that completely obscured what you really do (I'm looking at you, Altria), to create a sense of exotic mystery that truly entrances customers. The size of the abandoned building they left behind is pure evidence of the success of their strategy.

Okay, so, maybe that's bunk. It seems they made really big round machinery thingies, at least in the 1920s. A successor company still seems to be out there, now called Converteam (hmm... wonder if any branding consultants were involved). And the building isn't actually empty having been converted to office/studio space like a number of other old factories in the area (more to come).

The company was founded in 1891 as a service shop before moving into manufacturing and designing custom-engineered motors and generators. It seems to me that they make big custom motors for big industrial processes.

I could actually read this one while standing there on the street, but it's a little hard to see on the front of the building:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Anyone Know If Is Taken?

Clearly we need a palate cleanser to remove the sour taste of foreign beer from foreign lands, so why not some more beer? And what's better than local beer? And what could be more refreshing than one building with signs for both The Beer Refreshing and The Friendly Beer? I've talked about both before, but I found a discussion of the history of the Grain Belt brand (hiding so subtly on the Grain Belt website), so I've got a fresh link for you. It's been a long time a-brewing, but there was no way I could pass up the discussion of the '60s ad campaign feature the sign-painting duo of Stanley and Albert.

As for the building itself, it's Lee's Liquor Lounge. I've never been inside, and have to admit it looks a little seedy (being on the wrong side of the freeway) from the outside. That may not be fair, and it's certainly a name that's familiar, perhaps as a live music venue, so I'll have to give it a visit. As the history section on its website says, the bar dates to when this used to be an industrialized part of the city. Those days are long gone, as the fact that I would be able to see it from my bedroom if there wasn't another high rise housing complex in the way suggests.