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Why Woolworth’s will always have a special place in our Minneapolis hearts

December 19, 2018

Nicollet Avenue and 7th Street. This shiny white Woolworths, erected in 1937, was an act of faith in downtown Minneapolis. The city had been punished by the Great Depression, and nothing of note had been built downtown since the building boom ended at the start of the decade.

Blunt, unadorned, unapologetically modern the store was like an embassy from the rational machine-age future. The ad for opening day called it a store worthy of the progressive spirit of Minneapolis! Shop in complete comfort at Woolworths in any season of the year! Lunch at Woolworths for economy and good food!

OK! Calm down! But! They had a point! It was air-conditioned, so a shopper could escape the muggy heat of summer for a cool float at the counter. The store no doubt had the jumbled aromas of a five-and-dime onions from the grill, mothballs, perfume, cigarettes, fish tanks in the pet department. You wanted clothespins and a parakeet? This was your place.

Other stores would rise, and Woolworths luster would fade. Yet it was important to downtown. When the building was demolished for the IDS Center in the early 70s, it seemed natural to install a new Woolies in the new structure.

Once again, Woolworths was the most modern place downtown. It lasted 22 years, closing in 1993. That was sad for downtown but not as sad as the loss of this building.

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