Loop Back: Wild Times On Washington
From sketchy hotels to fur trading, boot-making and farm machinery distribution, the building at the northeast corner of 3rd and Washington has a long, colorful history. In fact, it’s the oldest building still standing in the historic warehouse district.
Built in 1865, it had small hotels and boarding houses on the upper levels of either end for decades, with wholesalers and manufacturers doing business in between and down below.
Judging by newspaper articles, the two earliest hotels, the Depot House (east end) and Laclede House (west end), had their share of trouble.
An 1889 article had a headline declaring “Officers Invade the Unhallowed Halls of the Depot House,” and this opening line: “For some time past, the police have had an eye out for the ladies of uneasy virtue who have made life an endless round of reckless dissipation…”
An 1893 article about the Laclede House reported on a visiting farmhand named Duff being robbed of $160 by “one of the white robed nymphs of the Laclede House.” The suspect’s name was Blanche. Other articles from the 1890s reported on drug problems, deaths and more thefts at the hotel.
Things seemed to settle down, though, from 1900-1948, when operators of The Pacific Hotel rented out rooms where the Laclede House had been, with little attention from police or newspapers.
Most of the commercial tenants of the building were farm implement distributors. The Nichols and Shepard Thresher company had the longest run, from 1890-1929.
The entire building was a boot factory for North Star Boot and Shoe between 1873-1875, with 45 men hard at work inside making footwear. The Minneapolis Tribune called it the “Enterprise of the Year” in 1874.
Over the years, other tenants included fur traders, a small distillery, a saloon fixture dealer, a cigar manufacturer and a stained glass dealer.
In 1968, another long-time tenant moved in. Acme Electronics was described in a newspaper article as a “sophisticated junk shop.” It sold electronics like transistor radios, speakers and walkie-talkies along with circuits, tubes and thousands of other spare parts. It was here for nearly 30 years.
In a few historic photos of Acme’s storefront, you can see a faded sign reading “Hotel” at the second level corner on the 3rd Avenue side.
We have several more pages of neighborhood history in our Historic North Loop section.
By Mike Binkley, North Loop Neighborhood Association