Historic North Loop

Loop Back: From Heavy Hardware To International Design

Built in 1890, this four-story brick and stone warehouse at the corner of North 1st St and 2nd Ave North was home to The Williams Hardware Company for more than 60 years.

With settlement expanding in the Upper Midwest, this wholesaling company stocked and shipped out blacksmith supplies, lumber, steel bars and tools needed for the carriages, wagons and new construction sites throughout the region. Williams added auto supplies to its inventory in 1914.

At the top of the building’s arched entry, you’ll see a keystone with the year 1890 engraved into it.

And along the top of the building there’s a cornice with the name of the contractor who built it, Joseph Seymour, who was president of the Franco-American League at the time. He built it in order to rent it out for industrial purposes.

Williams Hardware started leasing space here in 1896 and eventually bought the building in 1950.

Ads from the 1920s-40s show the building was lined with long painted banners on each level, while an oversized Williams Hardware flag and a water tower were on the rooftop.

At its peak, the company boasted of having 30,000 items in its inventory.

1958 photo showing loading dock on 1st Street which was added in 1952.

Williams Hardware moved out of the neighborhood in the early 60s.

Starting in the mid 1970s, the building was a home furnishings store and warehouse for the International Design Center, a place where you could buy European imports–including some less-expensive options with “assembly required” that were growing in popularity overseas.

Long before IKEA opened a store in the Twin Cities, shoppers were experiencing the same concept here in this warehouse. They would browse the showrooms to see how the furniture looked fully-assembled and then take their purchases home in cartons or boxes to put everything together themselves.

This money-saving option was especially popular in the high inflation years of the late 1970s.

1979 photo: Hennepin Co. Library

IDC moved to a new warehouse in Columbia Heights in the late 90s. The North Loop facility has since been renovated and restored for office and retail use.

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

By Mike Binkley, North Loop volunteer

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