Loop Back: Former Wagon Warehouse
Now known as the Designers Guild building, this L-shaped former warehouse at 401 N 3rd Street is one of many in the North Loop originally used to distribute wagons, buggies and other farm equipment during the nation’s westward expansion.
Sales for the Minnesota Moline Plow Company were booming at the turn of the century. And to create much-needed extra space, it built the first phase of this facility in 1901, taking advantage of the nearby tracks for the Great Northern Railroad.
A newspaper article gushed about the “handsome building which will be an ornament to that section of the city.” The second section was added eight years later in 1909.
Minnesota Moline supplied dealers such as Melin Brothers with “swell rigs,” wagons, buggies, gang plows and disc harrows through its warehouse in the North Loop.
Once the horse and buggy days were fading, Moline Plow got into the motorized vehicle business as well, producing the Stephens Salient Six, a medium-priced car named after company founder George Stephens. From 1917 to the early 1920s, Minnesota Moline offered the vehicles for sale on 3rd Street. The company ended production of the cars, though, in 1924.
Minnesota Moline left the building in the mid-20s and was replaced in subsequent years by various wholesalers and distributors, including Coast to Coast stores.
From 1958 to 1983, this was the Homemakers Guild building, featuring furniture showrooms that customers could visit by appointment with their dealer or decorator. The parking ramp was added in 1958 to accommodate those customers.
After filing for bankruptcy in 1983, Homemakers Guild opened to the public for a final sale with no appointment necessary.
It was renovated for office use in 1985—well before the North Loop was the business, entertainment and residential district that we know today.
The building was sold to a new ownership group in April of 2020 for a reported $20 million.
We have several more pages of neighborhood history throughout our Historic North Loop section.
By Mike Binkley, North Loop volunteer