Historic North Loop

Former Hotels/Boarding Houses On 1st Street

With business booming here in the late 1880s, there was a growing need for affordable lodging for all the workers putting in long hours at the factories, rail yards and warehouses of the North Loop.

There were at least six low-cost boarding houses on First Street North. Five of them are still standing today.

Before it became the Commutator Foundry, this was a boarding house for 31 years–the American House, built in 1884. As you can see in a Minneapolis Journal article (above), smallpox was a big concern in 1906, and all the rooms had to be fumigated and residents quarantined. The clipping just below that one, from 1896, illustrates how rowdy things could get at these boarding houses, with occasional brawls making the news.

The proprietors of the hotel kept horses in a stable next to the hotel.

The Britannia Hotel stood on what is now Spoon and Stable’s side parking lot. Other than that, though, we don’t have a lot of information on it.

In the above photo from the Hennepin County Library (believed to be in the late 80s), large spools of paper are outside the abandoned structure, presumably from the Fisher Paper Company down the block.

The Chicago House at 124 N 1st Street also dealt with serious smallpox concerns in 1888, just a few years after it opened.

The article details how an infected resident was removed and taken to “the pest house.” It also notes, “The Chicago House is one of a number of cheap boarding houses in a vicinity in which day laborers and transient men of the poorest classes have their abode.”

The infected man believed he contracted smallpox from a pair of pants he purchased at a second-hand store on 4th Street.

The Foster House at the corner of 1st Street and 1st Avenue was built by one of the city’s first blacksmiths, Stephen E. Foster, who was known for his fine carriages, sleighs and wagons. He had 35 rooms for $1 a night, and advertised “modern conveniences, electric lights, etc.”

The Hennepin Hotel at 204 N 1st St. also advertised rooms for $1 a night or $4 a week. If you look up at the upper left corner of the building, there’s an embedded stone that reads, “M.B. McConnel 1888.” McConnel was the original proprietor of the hotel, joined later by a fellow Irishman, P.J. McGrath.

The old Market Hotel at 1st Street and 1st Avenue would’ve been the closest boarding house to the Union Depot on Hennepin Avenue. It made the news in 1895 when a pair of thieves roamed the neighborhood with skeleton keys and tried to make off with coats from the various boarding houses. But a patrolman saw their act and hauled them away.

We have several pages of neighborhood history throughout our Historic North Loop section.

By Mike Binkley, North Loop volunteer

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