Saturday, October 20, 2012

Foreign Lands: Booty Time!

Who's ready to party?  Huh?  Let's get your groove on.  Move your body.  Shake your booty and get them digits!  It's a meat market, baby!

Okay, so it's not that kind of meat market.  Or if it is, I'm confused why you would need your home freezer.  I mean, if that's you and your honey's thing, who am I to judge?  Just don't got all Dahmer or Bernie on me.

Here's a video of a guy saying this was a famous meat market in the 1970s.  You can tell in that video that it's already closed as of a year ago.  I had hopes that our friend would tell us more about it, but apparently to him the main item of note is that there were Vikings (no, not the plundering kind) who used to patronize the joint and leave their pictures behind.

You can also see in that video that there's a handwritten sign saying Jimmy has moved.  I don't know if that's Jimmy up there with his face covered in brown spray paint, but apparently there was once a guy who worked here who was popular enough that someone thought folks might follow him.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Meta (Whirled Peas)

They've been working on renovating the long-vacant building on Hennepin that used to house Shinders and somehow that work has revealed a sort of meta-ghost.  It's not particularly visually interesting, and I'm not sure whether it's really faded paint or the shadow of long-gone lettering.  But if you look very closely, you can see that it says "Snyders."

When I was a kid, there was a Snyder's drug store in strip mall just up the road (ah, the pleasures of suburban living) and a Snyder Brother a little further down near Silver Lake Road and 694.  Youthful me could not quite figure out how these stores could include the same surname but not be related to each other.

Now that the local drug store landscape seems to be made up only of CVS, Walgreens and a few independents (and, yes, Target and Walmart), I thought I'd let this "sign" be an inspiration to try to find out.

So the first thing to note is that the two stores may not have actually shared a surname, and instead I could be conflating homophones (yes, dear reader, I've been known to do that).  The "brothers" store (from which I remember painted faces of happy looking pharmacists on the wall and in the print ads), might have contained some combination of "sch" or "ie", but I can't recall.

So let's start with Snyder's, whose demise was not so long ago.  It traces its history to Max Snyder who sold cigars in downtown Minneapolis starting in 1928 (perhaps at this location?).  The drugs came along in 1931, and by 1939 Snyder Drug was incorporated.  Then a few decades passed, until a bankruptcy in 2001 that started the process of selling off locations to Walgreens and CVS.

Snyder Brothers has left less of a digital trail.  This lawsuit suggests that I'm not wrong in remembering that it existed, and I even got the spelling right.  This comment includes them in a list of chains that helped speed the demise of independent pharmacies.  But that's about all I've got.  At least my memory isn't totally faulty.

As for those drugstores of my youth, the Snyder Brothers, along with the strip mall that used to house it, is gone, replaced by an LA Fitness.  The Snyder's was replaced by a Liquor Barrel. So at least you can get some kind of drug there.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Foreign Lands: From The Association For Creative Building Names

This post #130, so I'm supposed to have something I can sort of call a landmark here.  And I'm also not supposed to have signs from outside Minneapolis.  But I'm having trouble reconciling those two rules right now, as I haven't got any good local landmark ideas at the moment, so I'm going to St. Paul.

The first Google result for this one calls it the "historic Minnesota building" so I'm going to hang my landmark hat on that.  (The antitrust lawyer in me will just note without further comment that the first result is also a Google+ local site.  Hey, look!  Yelp! has a site too.)

You can watch a video of the building's "grand opening" from February of last year, which includes some historical information.  But the building was built in 1929 and was built to be upscale offices, but soon became infested with lawyers.  Keeping up with my architectural credentials, I can tell you that it's Art Deco, and was the first in that style in St. Paul.  It's now mixed use, apartments (137 units with 10 reserved for formerly homeless residents), retail and office space.  Way to go St. Paul!

Wikipedia will give you detailed description of the design.  You can get more photos here and here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Foreign Lands: Where's The Schnitzel?

We're back in St. Paul, where I found a gem of a place.  Not surprisingly, it's near the railroad tracks, but it's also right on 7th St, but over on the east side.  I'm not confident that we're going to find a lot in the history category, but it's a pretty cool building with great signs.

Today, it seemed to be low-end housing, although when I stopped there was a fancy SUV parked out front, which in my fantasy meant people planning to renovate.  We'll have to see.

Anyway, as you can see, Charles E. Eschbach seemed to have a meat market here.  It seems the Charles was born in 1890 and lived only until 1959.  His son was also named Charles and is buried in Elmhurst Cemetery in St. Paul.  It seems he might have furnished some meat to a family quarantined due to small pox in 1900, but that's about all I have.

So let's look for the flour.  It seems the Dwight Flour was from Moorhead (speaking of traitorous foreign lands), so that probably explains why the place isn't still operating.  Although this ad suggest maybe they were in Minneapolis too. So confusing.  But one thing is clear. It was made from only Red River wheat.

Someone already got better pictures than mine (better light and more capable photographer, probably) and posted them to Flickr.  It sees that some of the neighbors are gone.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Stop Me If You've Seen This One Before

Or better yet, don't.  Because if you've been following along, you have, indeed, scene this one before.  Or to be a bit more accurate, you've seen other parts of these "extensive works" before.  This one is a little down the railroad tracks from the one you've seen before, but presumably they were all part of that same facility at some time.

The news here, if you can call it that, is that I'd swear the missing part of the sign says "Albany" and "New York," although I have to admit it could be bad memories of the bar exam influencing my intuition.  I don't know why it would say that, of course, as it seems that they may have had offices in the Lumber Exchange downtown, but whatever.  Maybe they just had a special affinity for the capitol of the Empire State.

Let's finish up by looking a up a bit (please shield you eyes from the sun):

Monday, August 20, 2012

Think Up Your Own Lame Double Entendre, Please

It's been awhile since we had a legit post around here (yes, I'm looking at you and you), so I went back into my photo archive and found a real honest-to-goodness, Minneapolis, paint-on-brick, from back in the day, aging-but-preserved ghost sign for you.  You can thank me later.

The signs, for stores, factory, storage and warehouse space, may tell us something about the industrial history of the building, or it could just be Andrews Inc advertising for what they can offer nearby.  But regardless, this was once a commercial building downtown, so it must still be in commercial use, right?  No, of course not, silly.  It's "lofts" now!  What could be better?

Well, for the Sexton, perhaps lots of things could have been better.  It seems to have had rather a rough conversion into hip, urban living space.  Everyone involved seems to have sued each other, and residents were apparently promised a parking ramp (that's garage, if you don't speak Minnesotan) that never materialized.  I could probably make this whole post out of the saga of the Sexton suits, but that seems snore-inducing, so I'm going to write about other stuff after this next picture:

So, as I often do, I've tried to find some of the actual history on the building, before its troubled condo conversion, but I've not found a lot.  This guy seemed to promise to tell me something about it, but when you strip out the stuff from 2007 & 2008, he really just says it was an old warehouse.  Yeah, we knew that.

Here's what I've got for actual history: a photo of the building looking sharp in 1924, another showing cobbled streets in front from the next year, and two from 1938 inside the building depicting what's described as a "hospital admissions project."  At least these tell us something about the age of the building.  Now.  Are you ready for a tangent or two?

I knew you were.  Okay.  So having found little about the building itself, I got curious about its namesake.  There must have been someone named Sexton around, right? It seems there were at least two fellows with that name who popped up right away in my searches.  The first is a true Twin Cities old timer.  Gus Sexton was lumberjack and logging camp operator along the St. Croix dating back to the 1870s who seemed to get his picture taken fairly regularly.  He also seems to have given money for a pipe organ at St. Michael's church and owned property in Stillwater.  Unfortunately, we all know the good citizen's of Minneapolis wouldn't allow a foreigner from the east side of the river to own a building on our glorious soil, so Gus probably isn't our guy.

A more likely suspect might be this fellow, Charles W. Sexton, pictured in 1919.  It seems he was in the insurance game, if he's the guy mentioned in Best's Insurance Reports in 1922, but it also seems that he didn't live terribly long after that picture was taken, as Best's says he was deceased at the time of its report.  William Gray Purcell seems to have written to his company to make a claim in 1915.  He was apparently also a lawyer and his daughter seems to have married a lawyer, so maybe it's best not to speak of him anymore.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Foreign Lands: Perfunctorie

So I seem to be stuck in a rut of short, not-terribly-informative posts.  But it's been awhile so I wanted to get something up.  Also, I recently got back from vacation, and certain people wanted foreign signs, so here you go.

This one is in Sartene, Corsica.  The town's great.  Go.  Visit.  It's cool.  This is where "vendetta" comes from.  In the tiny warrens of windy streets, you don't want to make an enemy.

Otherwise, while the trip was really great, and the island really beautiful, there wasn't much for paint-on-brick advertising.  We ended the trip in Paris, where there were certainly some possible ghost signs, but we had so little time there that I couldn't justify spending time wandering the fading industrial parts.

So we're stuck with a just a former library.  I don't know how old it is.  All I know about it is that it's for you:

Friday, July 20, 2012


One last quick pre-vacation update post.  Apparently my timing was pretty good, as the Burch Pharmacy signs are now gone.  That's a little sad to me, but I guess I can see why the fancy new restaurant that's going into this space doesn't want old plastic signs for a non-existent business hanging around.  Still, my proto-preservationist heart thinks there's a way to design it that keeps the signs, or at least some of them.

Anyway, the building currently has no windows, so it's kind of interesting to stand on the street and look inside.  It could turn out to be a pretty cool space.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Foreign Lands: Back In The Saddle Again

I'm busy getting ready for vacation, so this will be a quick one.  It's from my old neighborhood in Washington, DC.  If you've lived in the area for a long time, you'd probably call the neighborhood Shaw.  If you are a realtor trying to market a property, you'd probably call it Logan Circle or Convention Center, because you like a little puffery and somehow Shaw's proud history as a center of African American culture sadly doesn't sell.

Anyway, this just south of O St. in an alley called Naylor Court NW.  The location always makes me scratch my head because as you can see in these other photos, the alley has undergone some recent renovations and now features lovely brick paving.  It looks great these days.  But I could swear that back in 2002 when I served on a DC grand jury, we heard evidence in a horrific violent crime in an alley with a similar name.  I may be misremembering, or I may not and gentrification has set in.

Unfortunately I don't know much about the J.P. Turner or his Hospital for Horses and Dogs, but it's a safe bet that they are long gone.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Livin' It Up Until We Hit The Ground

I've got some more foreign signs to work through in the backlog, not a few of which are from trucking and storage, but let's break things up a little and try to stay at home just a bit, so let's head out to Longfellow again.  As I promised, we've got more grain elevators.

The elevator's probably a bit older, but the sign looks to me like it's not from all that far back.  Harvest States should be a familiar brand to those from the Upper Midwest.  Honestly, I'm not entirely sure why, but I've heard of them, which means you should have too.

That said, it doesn't seem to say "Cenex Harvest States," so maybe that means the sign dates from before the merger of those two cooperatives in 1998.  The combined entity calls itself CHS, Inc. now, but it's still headquartered here in Minnesota, in Inver Grove Heights.  I'm not going to go too much into the company's complicated history of combinations and divestitures, but I was surprised to see among the many different transactions that Harvest States owned the Holsum brand.

It's hard to tell, at least to the untrained eye, whether this sort of facility is still in use, but it didn't look like it to me, except maybe as a cell phone tower (I think that's what those vertical rectangular things are).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Foreign Lands: Company Town?

I spent a recent Friday morning wandering around the older-looking parts of Sioux City, Iowa, in oppressive heat, and, surprise, I found more than a few ghost signs.  As it turned out, however, an overwhelming majority of them, on multiple buildings, were from a single company.  So, rather than risk turning this place into Ghost Signs of a Single Company of Sioux City, I'm going to bundle all the signs for them in a single post.  Prepare yourselves, people, as this is going to be a longer post (at least in terms of number of pictures).  I may even try to add a new trick to my magic blogging bag too.

I judged the picture up top there as the best of them, so, let's all take a moment to enjoy its beauty and clarity.  We don't get a good sign like this every day, Richard (okay, family inside joke there, if you don't get it, my apologies).  You probably have, however, heard of Bekins and seen their big green logo on a side of the truck.  But unless you're some sort of van lines fanboy or something (which probably is a thing), I bet you didn't know that Bekins was founded right here in River Ci... er.. Sioux City back in 1891 by brothers Martin and John Bekins.

The sign up top, and the next few below, are from a building wrapped in them just to the west of downtown at 4th St. and Wesley Parkway.  The one up top faces south and should be visible as you travel up Wesley.  This one's on the back, facing up the hill:

Once again, we're reminded how the fireproof thing seemed to be a point of advertising distinction back in the day.  There must have been fire everywhere.  If it was still there, we could have stopped in at the office at 419 4th St. to inquire, but alas, that's a Hom Furniture store now.

And with that, before this post gets so long as to take over the entire front page, let's try for some of that blogging magic.  Follow me after the jump, assuming I can figure out how to add one, pretty please.

Friday, July 13, 2012


Okay, so, a quick post with updates on prior signs that have had disturbance in their environments recently.

First up, as I mentioned before, the H.A. Holden Company now houses a Lunds wine shop.  Those good folks have preserved the sign, as you can see here:

There is also a plaque inside that says that the right-ward portion of the building, which now houses the walk-in beer cooler, is the original portion of the structure, which started out as a home.  I thought that was kind of interesting and cool of them to post.

There is also news at what was supposed to be The Nicollet.  Renovations are afoot, and the space seems finally destined to be put back into use, although not for a massive condo building as used to be the plan.  For now, the birds around the back are still undisturbed, but that may not continue to be the case.

Good news too for McDonald brothers.  Well, not so much news, as something I recently noticed, which is that the sign if readily visible from the seats behind home plate at Target Field, which is nice (look very closely just above the right-field jumbotron):

Finally, the Holsum thrift bakery sign has once again been cleared of its tags:

I'm not sure who thinks it's a good use of resources to keep removing graffiti from an otherwise derelict building, but it seems to be a pattern.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Damper Flapper

It's post #120, so that means we need a landmark.  As seems to be a developing pattern, I don't have paint on brick for one, but I do have one that visitors to town are likely to see.  In fact, I've been seeing this one while driving north on 35W toward downtown for years.  And yet it retained some amount of mystery because despite being readily visible it's sort of in an out of the way neighborhood tucked in next to the freeway.

So, one day, I went looking for it.  From the highway, you can see the clearly-marked smokestack above, but you can also see the big "Wells Fargo Home Mortgage" sign on the neighboring office building.  I thought that meant that the two companies existed in close proximity, but I was wrong.  This is no longer a Honeywell facility.  It just says that on the sign.  So, I guess that means it's a legit ghost.

Honeywell is one of those company's that, if you grew up in the Twin Cities, you had friends whose parents worked there.  It's a step beyond household name.  So much so that I always thought my former colleagues helping to prevent the GE/Honeywell merger awhile back meant that it would remain a Minnesota-based company.  But it seems I'm wrong and the company has its headquarters in Morristown, New Jersey.  It seems a 1999 merger already moved it away.

Nonetheless, the next shot gives us a glimpse into its real origins:

In case you can't read it, the sign says "The Minneapolis Honeywell Regulator Co., 1885-1928."  The company's history starts with a man named Albert Butz inventing a means of regulating the temperature of a coal furnace in 1885.  The precursor of the thermostat was born.  The company didn't get the disappointingly vague, yet geographically specific name of Minneapolis Heat Regulator (see below) until 1898, when the appropriately named R.W. Sweatt bought and renamed it.  A merger with Mark Honeywell's company in 1927 led to the name in the sign above.

You can't really read it, a the sun wasn't cooperating with my photography, but the top of the tower below says, "Minneapolis Heat Regulator."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cobbler On (Or Near) The Roof

Okay, so the last two haven't been paint on brick, so let's try to get back too it.  Somehow I missed this one when I snapped the several signs on its neighbor up the block in Dinkytown.  But the grey sky is still a give away to winter, as I swung back through in February during one of my basketball-related trips back to campus.

In case you can't read it, the sign says, "Campus Cobbler."  And in case you were born sometime in the last century and you don't really know what a cobbler is, it also helpfully says, "shoes."  And in case you worried that they might not carry your Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks (or some other brand featured on a tv show sometime in the last decade), you can barely make out that it also says "men's and women's."

Okay, so I'm going on a bit about the words on the sign because I'm not confident that I'm going to find much research about it, and I need to get this up fairly quickly before heading out to a fancy dinner (Bachelor Farmer, if you're a foodie, which is actually in a building that has been featured on this blog before, so I'll have to check on the state of the signs).  

So it turns out I was sort of wrong about whether I could learn anything.  It seems like the Campus Cobbler is related to the nearby Fast Eddie's Show Repair, which is across the alley (and apparently still there).  It seems the current owner/operator of Fast Eddie's, named Jim, became the manager at Campus Cobbler in 1979, only to move over to Fast Eddie's in 1987 where he's remained.  The original Fast Eddie, took up the shoe repair business in 1936 when hard times forced he and his brother into the big city of Crookston, MN. Eddie's brother went off to the war, but Eddie's flat feet kept him out, leaving him to find a shoe repair shop in Minneapolis in need of help on his way home.  The war, not surprisingly, was good for the repair business, and Fast Eddie's was eventually born.

I've got less on the shoe store itself, except a few old ads in the Minnesota Daily in 19661967, and more 1967.  The Hennepin County Library also has as shot of the street in 1974.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Someone Beat Me To It

We seem to be on a mini-run of signs that aren't paint on brick but this one has been in the news recently, as the building is about to be put back into to use as an interesting new restaurant.  Which is good, because the guy in that real estate ad on the lower left must be sick of replacing his sign after people draw funny mustaches on him.  Note to self: if you're ever going to put your face on an ad (probably one for Mr. Awesome's awesome super fabulous juice -- you don't always need a fabulous juice, but when you do, you need Mr. Awesome's), don't put it at street level where neanderthal sharpy-wielders can deface it's awesomeness.

Okay, so that was silly.  You know what's not silly?  Drugs.  They're bad people.  Well, except when you have a prescription.  Then they're the bomb.  Especially if you stop in and have Pharmacist Burch fill it for you.

It's been empty for awhile.  I think for at least as long as the year and a half or so since I moved back to Minneapolis.  Well, look at that.  It seems that the good folks at KARE 11 did a story about it closing in April of 2010.  So, yeah, a bit before my return.  Back in those days, I was still a hot-shot DC lawyer (or, um, sorta), so I didn't see it at the time.

It seems then place had been there for 80 years or so.  It seems the end was brought on by the lack of interest from potential buyers given the difficulties of the business in the face of competition from the big chains.

The folks from Spy Twin Cities, which I just discovered via Google but will have to keep an eye on, have a bit more for us (I love it when someone else has done the research).  They claim the place actually operated for 97 years, resulting from the combined forces of pharmacists George Ball and George Burch (who is not one of the people named Burch that show's up in the Historical Society photo archives). The Spy Twin Cities article is fabulous (how many times have I used that word?  Eh, it's Pride Weekend, so who cares), so I'll resist the temptation to summarize it here.  Please go read it for yourself.  They've got the kind of research, including old images, I only wish I had. I will, however, give you this shot of the streetscape at Franklin and Hennepin in 1953.  

You might see a pair of smaller signs on either side.  Let's take a closer look, starting on the left:

Oh, drugs aren't good enough for you (seriously, have you tried them?), okay then, let's go for kitschy, over-priced, corporatized "happiness" and "well-wishes":

By which, of course, I mean Kemps Ice Cream.  Those folks really get my dander up.

Update: click here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Their Mother Wasn't A Hamster

This one might have been obscure and mysterious to non-Midwest readers before Kal Penn started working for the Obama administration.  But president "hopey changey" ruined it all.  How's that working out for ya?

Um, yeah.  Okay.  So, if you happen to be a munchy-fiending stoner, don't head to this place.  I mean, it's still a white castle and all (check out those crenelations), but it's been awhile since it was a White Castle.  Mr. R.L. McPeck may sell stuff by the sack, but it sure sounds like it will run you a lot more than 5 cents per item.

White Castle has a proud Midwestern tradition, although its origins are farther south than Minnesota, even though opening in 1926 in St. Paul isn't bad.  It seems that the building in this picture is No. 8, dating to 1936.

I've not had White Castle in many years, but my personal memories date to my father talking about stopping in with his band mates for late night snacks after playing his trumpet at dance gigs, that same father trying to subject the frozen variety on my brother and me at lunch, and my crew mates gorging themselves when I worked a summer for the county public works department.

I'd say that I should go back of nostalgia sake, but, um, no thanks.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Foreign Lands: Not The Guy From Ulysses

We've been hanging near home lately, so let's take a little trip to the east.  Let's go back to St. Paul, in the very same alley we visited before.  But this sign is going to be a little less iconic than Norwest bank.

This one says "John E. Blomquist Inc.," who apparently did "management" and were "realtors."  It's yet another local Scandinavian name, so I'm not too confident we'll find anything about Mr. Blomquist or his company, but at least this one has a slightly abnormal spelling.

Apparently there is a John E. Bloomquist (note, two Os) from Montana, who shows up in court filings from time to time.  But as there is clearly only one O in our sign, that can't be our guy.  Let's see what else we can find.

Ah hah! This looks to be our guy.  JEBCO Group, Inc., previously known as John E. Blomquist Company, was founded in 1923 in St. Paul by a gentleman of that name.  To this day, they seem to do mortgages and property management, after starting out as a full service real estate firm.  Presumably it was that old guy who commissioned the painting of this sign.  The company was able to avoid a very small award of punitive damages in 1977, when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that punitive damages weren't available for contract disputes.  It's actually kind of hard to believe that a dispute over $500 could be cost-effective to appeal to the state Supreme Court, but then again, the company's law firm has since folded, so maybe that was typical for them.

It seems that in 2009, someone with the same name, probably not Senior unless he was very old, was the CEO of BancMidwest, which entered into an agreement with the Federal Reserve in connection with its restructuring.  My guess is that this Blomquist is the son or other descendant of our founding Blomquist.

Update:  Shortly after writing this, I began reading Steig Larsson's novels (probably the last to get around to it), and realized I probably should have gone with a reference to his works instead of the strained Joyce reference in the title.  Granted, had the thought occurred to me, I probably would have been tempted to add yet another level of obscurity and gone from Steig to The Stig and Top Gear (or The Stig and Top Gear).

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Look Elsewhere For The Stems And Resin

It's been a busy weekend here at the blog.  We've had to contend with a whole 3 page views in the last couple of days.  Apparently y'all are just way too excited about unknown printing companies.  Well, even though that didn't fire you up, this surely will.

We're off in the southeastern part of the city, right next to the railroad tracks along Hiawatha Ave. that parallel the river.  It's the land of light rail, grain elevators and related businesses, no small number of which seem to be crumbling and in decline.

In that vein, here we have the Minneapolis Seed Company.  It may not be fully legible in the photo, but it was pretty clear when I drove by again today, so take my word for it.  Despite being a bit generically named, the Historical Society has this interesting postcard from 1910.  It seems this is part of the Cargill empire (pdf) and the former Terminal Elevator Company, formed in 1904 and renamed in 1912 amid restructuring brought about by fiscal crisis at the company.

In November of 1920, officials of the company reported that country dealers were holding on to their seed rather than selling it in hope of higher prices.  Later that year, American Seedsman published some interesting images of the interior of the company.

Here's shot of the elevator, just to the left up the tracks in the photo above.  Stick around and I'll show you something quite similar from a bit farther to the southwest.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Short Timer?

I've had this one laying around for awhile, and if I recall, I started to blog about it once before, but really couldn't read what it says so I stopped.  But this building, or more accurately the mostly empty block that it sits on are relevant to current events, so I though I'd get it up now.

This is what's called the McClellan Building, which belongs to the Star Tribune.  It's also part of the five square blocks on the east side of downtown that the Star Tribune has been looking to sell for awhile.  It seems to have found a buyer for this particular block, which was part of the recently-passed plan to build a new Vikings stadium nearby.  I'm not exactly sure what use this block will be put to, but it's a sure bet that this building will be gone at some point in the next few years of construction.

As fan of old buildings and old signs, that's a little bit sad, but I'm also a fan of urban redevelopment, so I'm hoping beyond hope that the stadium plan will finally help revitalize this underused corner of the city.

As for the sign itself, it's not so easy to read, as I mentioned.  Clearly there was a printing and lithography business here, most likely before the Star Tribune acquired it.  Unfortunately, I can't really make out its name.

You would think the name of the building, which is well documented, might be a clue, but it's not really helping me either.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Can't Get Enough

Let this sign be your guide.  Should you be trying to go shopping at Freeman's, that is, this is where you should be parking.  You may face a small challenge, however, in that Freeman's no longer exists.  Instead, this sign is on the back of what's referred to as the Coliseum Building.

The store opened in 1917 and survived until 1975.  Which means I'm not nearly old enough (okay, maybe nearly, but still) to remember when it actually existed.  It's near the intersection of E. Lake St. and Minnehaha Ave., which apparently used to both be an intersection of streetcar lines and a home to no fewer than five department stores.  Here's what the place looked like in around 1920.

In my head, I remember dropping my brother off for a Bad Company concert in this building shortly after getting my drivers' license.  If there's any validity to that memory, it was probably due to the ball room.  There are ongoing plans for redevelopment and refurbishment of this historic building.

There is no word whether the proprietors are related to Hennepin County Attorney (and former gubernatorial candidate) Mike Freeman, or his father, former Minnesota governor and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Orville Freeman.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Insert Funky Slap Bass Here

I like this sign, because we're clearly not looking at something from the 1890s here.  Check out those colors.  Check out the graphic design.  That's gotta be the 1970s, right?

You'll not be surprised that an auto repair shop that dates to the latter parts of the 20th century, which looks to have been long closed, does not have a large internet footprint.  That means I can't tell you much about this, so I'll keep it brief.  The Interwebs have documented it at least twice before.

This post brought to you in honor of Art-A-Whirl, which is currently taking place in the Nordeast Arts District, including right next door, I think.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Local Tip: Stay Away From Vulcans

Cedar Lake Ice & Fuel Co. has been blogged before.  Our blogging friend seems to have done the internet research back in 2008, so I'm going to keep this brief.  I'm not exactly sure why, but apparently Hidden Beach, a formerly nude beach on Cedar Lake is involved, so how could I not mention it?'

I've not got a ton on the company itself, but they seem to have dealt in ice, coke, coal and oil.  Presumably they helped you keep your house warm in the winter and your custard cold in the ice box year-round.  The Strib pulled together an awesome collection of photos from 1947 of the harvesting of ice on Cedar Lake not too long ago.  I would guess it's this company doing the harvesting, but it doesn't explicitly say.  That post links to even older coverage from 1890.  Click both links and check out the really cool, and cold, old pictures.

This building is on Nicollet between 25th and 26th, on what locals like to call "Eat Street," and now houses Vertical Endeavors, where you can go rock climbing.

Here's another shot of the sign from Flickr.  The local press was/is on top of redevelopment efforts.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Long, But Probably Not Winding

It's post #110, so that means it's landmark time.  As seems to be a pattern, we're straying a bit from from paint-on-brick advertising to get one.  This one's full name is  the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Depot Freight House and Train Station. Or at least that used to be it's official name, after the railroads that used it.  Anyway, I've never heard anyone call it anything except the Milwaukee Road Depot, or just the Depot.

Trains rumbled to a stop at this spot dating back to the old Minnesota Central railroad in the mid-1860s.  According to Wikipedia, the "first depot" was built here in 1879, Italianate style.  I'm not sure whether that means that for the roughly 13 years prior existence folks just had jump off the moving train as it went by, or if it means the line was only extended to here a little more than a decade before it's start.

Anyway, that original depot was torn down and replaced with the current one in 1899.
Perhaps you've not heard, but passenger rail had a bit of a decline, and freight rain struggled and consolidated elsewhere.  The Deport stopped functioning in that capacity in 1971 and sat vacant for a long time as folks tried to figure out what to do with it.

The city bought the property in the early 1990s, as described in this wonderful old report from WCCO TV.  As the mustachioed gentleman predicted in his interview, the place was used as a home for the Minneapolis Farmers Market before being renovated in earnest.  Today the old depot is a hotel (you can see the word Renaissance below the original signage if you look closely) and the old train shed, still among the longest survivors of it's kind, is an indoor ice rink.    .

For a bit of 1950s jingle fun, check out this song written for Milwaukee Road's 100 birthday.  You'll not be surprised that the Historical Society has quite a few images.  I'll just point out out a few.  In 1948, there were different signs for different railroads.  The trains of 1950 were a bit steamy and maybe wet.  I would not have wanted to work in the yard in the winter in 1951, and definitely not in icy 1952, or any time for that matter.  You can see one of our previously featured landmarks in the background of this shot of a derailed passenger train in 1953. Despite all the steam, snow and derailment, this fashionable duo in 1954 seem downright enthusiastic about arriving.

Finally, you might recognize the apartment building in the background from it's appearance as Charlize Theron's Minneapolis home in dark comedy, Young Adult.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

No, Not Verisimilitude

I didn't know it at the time, but apparently I should have refrained from breathing as I biked by this sign.  It's a little faded, but you should be able to read "Western Mineral Products Company" on the bottom.  That's gotta mean that they produce something wholesome like calcium to fortify your children's cereal or maybe delicious, pure mineral water.

Wait, what?  This building at 1720 Madison St. NE, back in the Nordeast Arts District, is a superfund site?  As it turns out, this building was a plant that turned "Libby Ore" from Montana into asbestos insulation from the late 1930s to the late 1980s by heating the ore until it "popped" into fluffy material suitable for insulation. Even better, they used to offer waste "rock" for free to the surrounding community, potentially creating a whole neighborhood of cancerous fun.  While it operated, at least 130,000 tons of the stuff was shipped by rail to this location. The product here was sold under the Zonolite brand, and may well still be in your house.  You'll not be surprised that all this resulted in at least one lawsuit.

The W.R. Grace Company bought this building in 1963.  According to them, they're still enriching lives to this day. The company actually originated in Peru in 1854, where it was founded by William Russel Grace, who fled the potato famine in Ireland.  One has to wonder if he knew what he was getting into.  The Grace company website still seems to have a product sheet for Zonolite, but I don't know if that means it's still available for purchase.

I once heard the "mesothelioma lawyer" was the most expensive ad term you could by from Google.  These folks were apparently a little more specific and decided to go directly for "Western Mineral Products."  I thank them for the background information.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Maybe The Sign Of The Unfriendly Host Would Be Funnier?

It's been awhile since we had a beer sign, so let's get back to it.  This one isn't particularly local, but it seems like there is something appropriate about a security camera keeping an eye on a step latter in front of a sign for a beer from Wisconsin.  I'm pretty sure someone dressed head-to-toe in red will come rushing by and trying to run off with the ladder at anytime.  They can use it to try to sneak into Camp Randall or something.  Better dead than red.  Friends don't let friends go to Madison.  All that sort of jazz.

This building, at 2913 Central Ave., apparently used to be bar or something, with this sign on the alley in the back.  Today it looks mostly abandoned, aside from its outdoor hardware storage.  If you peak between the rungs, you might be able to see that Heileman's Old Style is "The sign of a Friendly Host" at "March's Inn."  March's doesn't seem to have left much of a footprint on the internet, so I can't tell you much about it.

Which leaves us with Old Style.  As I mentioned, the brand's origins are in Wisconsin (death to Bucky!).  Those currently responsible for marketing the brand don't seem too interested in telling us anything about it (You're selling a brand like this and you're not playing up the nostalgia?  Really?)  The story takes us in the complicated history of American brewing.

Gottlieb Heileman emigrated from, surprisingly, Germany at some point in the mid-1800s, and made his way to La Crosse where he founded the brewing company that would ultimately bear his last name and first initial in 1858.  His son-in-law successor was in charge when they started making Old Style as their "premium" brand in 1905.  Later Russel Cleary (where there's a Cleary and a Gottlieb, can the Steen and Hamilton be far behind?) started a series of acquisition and consolidation in the 1970s and 80s , which ended up with the company controlling quite a few of the old line beer grands, including Grain Belt, before being taken over itself and passed around for awhile.  These days, Pabst controls both "Heileman's" and "Old Style."

Monday, April 16, 2012

He Had A High, Squeaky Voice

Amazingly, this isn't actually a ghost.  Roberts' Shoe Store still exists and still sells shoes.  But those signs are just too good to leave out.  It's right next to the last trio, right at Chicago & Lake.  Roberts' offers "Happy feet for all the family," with helpful musical notes that sure make the sign looks like it's from the Singing In The Rain era of the early 1950s.  I can almost hear Bing Crosby singing the jingle.

The store was founded by Nathan Roberts in 1937, and carries very, very large All Stars.  It's also apparently the place go if you like really, really old shoe fitters, as their's averages 32 year experience.  Old Nathan bought the store after the previous owners went bankrupt in the Depression (the Great one).  And yet everyone in the neighborhood was apparently working at the time.  Hm.

What is now the Midtown Tower, and now houses Midtown Global Market used to be a Sears (if you look closely you can still see "Sears Roebuck" over the doors), is down the street.  Sears closed sometime before 1982 as part of the neighborhood's overall decline before a more recent resurgence.

Check out some old pictures of the building in 1956, 1956 at night and 1951.

Maybe even better than the Roberts' sign is the one to the immediate right of the tree in the middle, which says "Meats."  Maybe I'll go by again to see if I can get something more identifying, but I like it anyway.  There might be another sign just above that too, but I can't read it.  There is definite paint on brick though.

Finally, take a gander at the awnings on the Lake Street side:

UPDATE: Sam's question in the comments got me looking for a recording of the jingle from the first sign,  which took me to an old recording of a radio show from local legend Steve Cannon from 1957.  Around 8 minutes in, there is a singing weather ad from Roberts' followed by copy from Cannon.  Unfortunately, they don't seem to sing "Happy Feet for All the Family."

I remember Cannon as having the afternoon drive time show on WCCO for years and years, but I didn't know that before that he was at WLOL, which was the hip pop music station of my youth (now long gone).  Listening to him in the 1950s is like a recording from another world.  I particularly liked how he broke in to tell the ladies that it was hot enough that they didn't need wear their seamless nylons.  I'd assume that was a joke, but it still says something about the times.

I'll post another update if I find audio of the jingle.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

We've Been Over This Before

I've got three signs on the side of one building in an alley off Lake Street of varying degrees of legibility.  The first one we can make out, and in part because we've seen that yellow-hewed ad style before.  It's Lee's, but this time it's not just overalls.  This one seems to be co-sponsored by something called Jack's Toggery.  

If you're like me, you weren't so sure about that second word.  It sort of sounds like British legal term/slang for alternative sexual behavior.  But I guess maybe it used to mean clothing store in the vernacular.  Somehow, that's disappointing.  So is what I've been able to find about Jack's.  I'd guess there was a clothing store by that name in this area, but I've not been able to turn up any evidence, so, on to the others:

For the next one, we know what they do, but we're missing the name.  Apparently someone around here offered window trimming, show card writing and advertising.  My first thought was that this was a another decorating outfit, but I think that's wrong.  I think these folks were instead marketers.  Maybe they were the original Mad Men.  Sadly, if they wrote their own name on the side of this building, I can no longer read it.

The last one leaves us with the opposite problem.  I think that first line says "Van Camp's."  I can't read the rest, but it seems there is a famous brand of canned beans with that name owned by ConAgra.  I don't think I've heard of them, but that has to be what we are looking at.  Apparently I don't eat enough canned beans.  I've seen Blazing Saddles, so I do not regret it.

The brand dates to 1861 in Indianapolis, and there's a pretty cool collection of Van Camp ads from the period when they were owned by a company called Stokely here.  Local Google results for the last name seem to be dominated by doctors with that last name.   Do you think any of them focus on the gastrointestinal system?

Just for good measure, here's a guy named Van Camp hoisting anchor with some friends somewhere in Minnesota in 1941.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Foreign Lands: At Least They Didn't Trade Santana For It

I was in Lincoln, Nebraska last week, and it turns out they have a nice little "warehouse" area near the railroad tracks.  I got a few pictures while I was there, but (girlfriend's) familial duties kept me from doing a thorough survey. Don't tell my girlfriend (who probably isn't reading this), but I'll probably be back and hope to grab more pictures.

Anyway, here we have the Humber Manufacturing Co., which according to the side of the building seems to have made "engines" and  "threshers."  Unfortunately, I'm not get a lot of other evidence from Google, so maybe we'll just stick close to these cool pictures:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Maybe Sesame Seed Bun but No Special Sauce

Meanwhile back in the warehouse district, we've got the McDonald Bros. Co. a wholesaler of china, crockery and glassware.  It was the business of Matthew McDonald "who for a considerable period was one of the owners of an extensive wholesale and retail china, crockery and glassware." He was born in Pennsylvania in 1848 to Irish immigrant parents and started his china business there before relocating to Minneapolis in 1884. It sounds like they were on Nicollet first, but moved down Fifth Street to this location near First Avenue, where they apparently expanded into retail. Matthew died in 1910, leaving the business in his brother's hands.

Members of the McDonald family apparently prospered enough to house themselves on the lovely Lake of the Isles Parkway, where Frank McDonald, a department manager, lived in 1917. Millard McDonald, one of Matthew's sons who graduated from law school and served in the aviation forces in the first world war, lived over on Blaisdell Avenue in 1910.

The building apparently had a major fire in 1895, which lead to the death of five firemen, at the time the deadliest fire in the history of the Minneapolis fire department.

There's a cool shot here and a close-up on Fickr and here's the building in 1902.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Foreign Lands: Local Product

I thought this blog needed a little gritty reality.  It's been all sweetness and light around here, with the silly jokes and the failing to be funny and all that.  So, let's bring it down folks.  Barbed wire.  Pointy.  Sharp.  Will tear your jeans if they get caught as you try to climb over.  Everyone please take a moment of silence to consider all the tragedies of the world to which this scourge has contributed.

Now that you've shed a tear over thoughts of being a sheep fenced on the wrong side of a field of sweet, succulent grass, we can move on.

Okay, so this one's not all that easy to read, but I'll help you out.  It says Gold Medal Flour.  I'm sure you've read all my posts, so you're probably saying to yourself, "hey! I know all about that product."  Congratulations!  You're so smart.

But this sign has traveled from its namesake's home along the banks of the Mississippi.  I was back in DC last week and found this one along 14th Street, between T and Wallach.  I've been by there many times but never noticed it before. That barbed wire is there because of an ongoing demolition project, so perhaps it was covered up until recently, but I don't think so.  Regardless, I have a feeling this sign will not be visible for long, as where there is demolition in downtown DC there is soon to be new condos.  If I'm right, I will be happy to have documented a bit of history.

Even better, that sign is on the side of the relatively newish Taylor Gourmet on 14th.  Now that's a good hoagie.

Speaking of landmarks, just for fun, here's another DC institution: