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.

Foreign Lands: One Wall; Several Signs

This wall, on the side of 262 E. 4th near Wacouta in St. Paul, has several ghost signs. I've decided to deal with them individually, but you can get a preview of them all over on Writing On The Wall.

Naturally, I've also decided to start with the beer. And, naturally, as we are in foreign lands, we also have a sign for foreign beer. Being St. Paul, you would think it would be for the local brew, but no, this is even worse. It's beer from Milwaukee. Can you image? Apparently that city simply has no pride.

Unfortunately I can't say for sure which Milwaukee beer it is, because someone decided to put a pair of windows directly in the name. It looks to me like it ends in a Z, so my guess it was either Blatz or Schlitz. Regardless, neither is from the land of the sky blue waters.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pizza! Pizza! (sorry, Little Ceasar's)

This is a good one! Okay, so, even if you aren't local, you know these people's products. If you are local, you may not know the history. I'm sure all of you think of Minneapolis as the natural source of all your frozen Italian foods options.

This is the original location for Totino's, which started in the 1950s as a local take out pizza place. Eventually it grew into a restaurant, and then a frozen food empire. It's amusing to me that here, on the original Nordeast location, which closed some time ago (maybe 15 years?? or not quite that long), relocated to my neck of the woods, not far from where I grew up, in Mounds View.

I'm sure we went there once or twice when I was growing up, but I can't stress enough how extraordinary it is for tomato, onion and garlic based food (YUM!!) to have had so much success in the heart of meat-and-potato land (although had they still featured fried shrimp, my dad woulda been a regular). It's inspiring enough that I might have to pick up some pizza rolls and watch some hockey! Go North Stars!

Um. Okay. Well. Lest we all leave with all warm feelings, I have to mention that the founders of Totino's also are name-sponsors of Totino-Grace. I'm sure it's a fine institution, but for half of my high school sports career, and the lead up to it, it was a cross-conference rival (darn you Iker Iturbe!). I will eat my frozen snack foods with a bitter aftertaste of thwarted teenage competition.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Nemeses Of Dudley Do-Right?

The Calhoun Building, at 711 Lake St. (near Lyndale), was built by the Calhoun Commercial Club. It was completed in 1914 at a cost of $135,000, and was supposed to feature a bowling alley, an auditorium and rooms for club activities, along with commercial space for lease. I've not found much about the club and its function, except mentions in the bios of a few old members.

Over at the Historical Society, you can see the evolution of both the building and the cars parked in front of it from 1918 to 1956. The Hennepin County Library has the many women of the Red Cross Auxiliary assembled in front of the building in June 1917. Finally, check out this 1925 stag party of the club. Either wearing fake mustaches was part of the fun or you had to be Dastardly Whiplash to join it.

There is no word as to whether there is any movement to change the building's name, as there is for the nearby lake that is also named after the former Vice President and slavery proponent John C. Calhoun. Oddly, Mr. Calhoun did not wear a mustache, although he did look like a character from the muppets.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Foreign Lands: Better Than Punch Cards

Behold! The computing power of reel-to-reel tape! Nothing says high tech like guys in suits, horned rim glasses, and flat tops. Despite appearances, Control Data made some of the fasted computers of the 1960s. The company had its origins in WWII code-breaking for the Navy, but via some time as part of Sperry, by 1957 it had set up shop in an old warehouse here in Minneapolis. You will not be surprised that this early history of computing is well documented on the interwebs. Apparently web types like computers. Who knew?

Historical Society doesn't seem to have a shot of this location, but a scroll through the search results for Control Data is still interesting, if nothing else for images of the various buildings around the Twin Cities. This used to be big business. Big enough that they moved houses in the Marshall-Dale area to build its world distribution center.

The last bit of the company was sold off in 1999. I haven't been able to find out whether they have offices at this location, but I rather appreciate that the developers of this building, which looks to now be housing, left the better part of this sign for posterity. This way we all get to remember when Minnesota was a hot bed of computing (take that, Silicon Valley!).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Save Me A Seat In The Balcony

In keeping with my prior attempts to make every tenth post something that can legitimately be called a landmark, I give you the Uptown Theater. It was opened in 1913, although it was then called the Lagoon, and is one of the oldest and largest movie theaters left in the Twin Cities. It's also the only one with a balcony that's still in use. In addition to being a landmark, it's also an institution, in no small part for its long-lived tradition of showing Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight, although it doesn't seem to be doing that at the moment.

In thinking about it, I think I've only actually seen two movies there. The first was Trainspotting, when I must have been 18, and the second more recently, although I'm unsure of the film. Perhaps it was Cedar Rapids? Anyway, while the place isn't necessarily in pristine condition, it's a reminder of when movie going was a grand experience (well, or at least when people pretended that movie going was a grand experience).

I was surprised that there are only a few images available from the Historical Society. Norton & Peel snapped it in 1938, before the big tower-sign and while there were cobblestones and streetcar tracks, and again in 1957 in the snow. But more interesting to me is this one from circa 1980. The year doesn't sound all that long ago to me, even though I was four at the time, but it sure looks like a different era.

You can find it at Hennepin and Lagoon (and near Lake, obviously).

Monday, July 11, 2011

Such A Lovely Place

We're back in my neighborhood for the Continental Hotel. Built in 1910, and originally called the Ogden Apartment Hotel, it's on the national register of historic places. It was originally middle class housing, of a type popular with single men and women, that differed from a typical apartment by the lack of kitchen. It's name was changed in 1948, perhaps after the original owner, James Ogden was no longer in the picture.

Messrs. Norton & Peel snapped it at least twice, perhaps for this postcard from the 1950s. You can commemorate Gertrude's stay in 1968 by buying a used (okay "vintage") copy here. In addition to enjoying her note to Ann of Racine, you can read the back of the card and learn that it billed itself as fireproof (probably means I'll find photos of a fire somewhere) and at the time offered daily and weekly rates. The daily rates were apparently no longer available by the time the famous photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank tried to stop in.

Today it's transitional housing for 70 formerly homeless individuals. It's the last remaining single room residential hotel in Minneapolis.

As usual, Flickr users and a blogger are hot on the trail. It's at 66-68 12th St. S., at Lasalle.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Foreign Lands: Its Own Juvenile Joke

I still have a backlog of Minneapolis signs, and many neighborhoods left to explore, but some day those resources will be exhausted, and it's fun to explore other places too, so I'm going to occasionally bring you signs from foreign lands. This one is truly exotic, from strange and alien confines of downtown St. Paul. If any of you are ever brave enough to venture there yourselves, come prepared, it's truly the wild, um, east.

I remember radio ads for Butwinick's from my childhood. As you can imagine, it's a name that a tween would remember. I'm surprised I've not found more about the store's history on the internet, but Writing On The Wall says it was in operation from the '30s to the '90s. I'm guessing that its closure was just before everything started getting documented digitally on the web. Apparently a scion of the family now owns a mattress store.

From the Historical Society's photo archives we learn that Butwinick's store had a fire in 1949, which led to a big sale that drew a big crowd. And here's another shot from Flickr.

The sign's on the corner of 7th and Sibley, which looks like it's actually a few doors down from the original store.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Their Term, Not Mine

This one isn't so much a ghost, as Dusty's is very much still alive (there's actually a nice looking patio on the other side of the building), and the sign if prominently displayed on the bar's website, but it's classic Nordeast. I'm hoping that proprietors/founders were themselves of Italian dissent, but regardless, it seems that to them a "Dago" is an Italian sausage sandwich. I've never been, but it's on my list of Nordeast cultural experiences to explore.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dedicated Followers of Fashion

I started to put this one up the other day, so I had to double-check that that I didn't actually post it. I'm not sure why I like this particular shot so much, except that I like the parallel lines of the sign for Nate's Clothing and the street sign. So, yeah, that's me pretending to be arty.

Nate's is no longer operating from this location, but apparently was downtown for 92 years before moving on out to the suburbs in 2008. At the time, the space was to be converted to offices (what else), but I'm not sure what's there now. A Flickr user got this cool shot of the old sign out front. I don't recall seeing it, so I'm betting its no longer there.

The building, at 401 1st Ave. N., is apparently also known as the Manufacturers Building, and dates to about 1910.

Pulp Free

Unless they have a pseudo-scientific sounding old name, it can be hard to find much to say about signs for products that are still on the market. But I rather liked this sign for Orange Crush, in part for its general randomness of the sign on what must have been some sort of small commercial building in the middle of a residential area in Nordeast. There's a sign on the front door that says "Orange Crush Art," which must mean its in use as a studio, but I don't know.

Wikipedia tells me that the brand dates to 1911, and is currently owned by Dr. Pepper Snapple Group.

The building is at 2217 Marshall Ave. NE.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rhymes With Clicks

I'm back. I hope all 4.5 of you that read each post had a lovely 4th of July weekend. I did, as the weather at the lake was more than a little perfect. It could not have been better, really.

But we're back in action now, and back with beer no less. I'm fairly sure this says Gluek's, although looking at it now it looks more like Glue's. There was to be a K in there somewhere. Regardless, we are back across the river in Nordeast (no, you can't call it Northeast). There will be more from the downtown core, which seems to be the gift that keeps on giving, but for now it's time to stretch a bit. So far I've only had one little bike trip through the area, but it made me more than a little nostalgic for an area from before I was born. I found a cool old neighborhood featuring brick houses and blocks with a church on one end and a neighborhood bar on the other. Granted, I'd only visit one of those two institutions, but it still seemed to me like the way to live.

As for Gluek's, well, there is a bar/restaurant downtown still, although I've personally not heard the best things. I've not been there in probably 15 years myself, so clearly I'm due. The building dates to 1902, which is certainly worthy of a visit. Gottlieb Gluek started his brewery at Marshall and 22nd NE in 1857. There are some old-fashioned labels and the like about the brewery and the brand here. The brand apparently came to an end last year.

There are many images for Gluek's in the Historical Society archive, and more than a few from Norton & Peel, which seems to be searchable despite the government shutdown. There are a ton of cool images, including some that go all the way back to the 1870s, and a number of mystery local bars of this type and some from the neighborhood. They are worth a look just for how the city used to be. My favorites, though, might be the ones anticipating the end of prohibition.

This particular relic is at 1400 NE 4th St.