East End Historic Walking Tour
As part of a continued effort to revitalize our East End Business District, the Chamber applied for and was selected to receive an AARP Community Challenge Grant. Our goal is to activate our downtown East End corridor (Broadway St). What was once a bustling, quaint downtown area with restaurants, retail shops, 2nd-floor residential, and public space has deteriorated over the last 3 decades. Today, it sits with 60% of buildings vacant, much despair, and is an area that is not performing at its full capacity. However, with a little vision and muscle, we see the potential this quaint neighborhood has to provide a much-needed asset in Ellsworth.
As we look forward to this area of our community becoming an ideal pedestrianly friendly and safe third-place for community members of all ages, we find the history of this area is offering much inspiration. As we hear the stories of once was we are reminded of the pride that was the foundation of this part of our community.
The earliest reference to “East Ellsworth” appeared in the July 27, 1887 issue of the Pierce County Herald.
Prior to 1885 all commercial and residential growth happened in the vicinity of the Pierce County Courthouse. There was little incentive for businesses to settle further than the Midway district to the east at the bottom of the hill. That all changed with the coming of the railroad.
East Ellsworth came into existence when the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Omaha railroad extended its branch line from River Falls to Ellsworth. The line terminated one mile east of the courthouse because the railroad needed fairly level terrain for roadbed, tracks, and roundhouse. The hill up to west end was just too steep to be practical for the rail line. The railroad into the east end of Ellsworth officially opened on November 11, 1885.
Businesses located there to take advantage of the ease of access to the railroad and its amenities.
1. 234 N Broadway Street
Built in 1904
This two-story brick building was built as a meat market. Around 1911, Red Wing Brewing Company operated a tavern here. In 1916, it was sold and became a shoe store until 1932 and a Gamble Store in 1936. In 1938, Dr. Andrew Johnson bought the building, improving it with a hot water heating plant, and a remodeled upper story, which Dr. V.V. Nordholm used as his doctor’s office. In 1938, a furniture store opened in the lower storefront - as well as a radio repair shop. The furniture business was discontinued in 1940 and television and appliance sales were added. The business closed in 1985. It was briefly Doug’s Pizza Shop in 1985. This property is now a self-service laundry.
2. 262 N Broadway Street
Built in 1896
Originally, the first floor served as a saloon with a basement soft drink works. In 1899, the building was divided into three parts; south, central, and north. The south part was a harness shop, which converted to a cafe in 1904. In 1921, it changed hands and became a radio shop, and then a pool hall until the repeal of prohibition when it became a tavern. It was converted back to a cafe in the 1960s, becoming the beloved Kruse’s Kitchen in 1976. It now stands vacant.
The central portion of the building was the Millie Ellison millinery (hat) shop, which opened in 1896. Her business ended in 1906 when she was killed at the hands of her boyfriend of 12 years at the National Hotel of Minneapolis. She declined his marriage proposal and he started her on fire and then shot himself. The space continued as a hat shop and then a dress shop. Norma Bjornson bought it in 1958 to open a beauty salon. In 2004 it became Hair Traffic Control.
The north end of the building was a branch of Charles Fresse’s harness shop. In 1898, a hardware store opened. It closed a year later and became a jewelry store. In 1908 it became a cream station run by the Milton Dairy Company. In February 1913, it became a three chair barbershop, which became Norma’s Beauty Salon in 1964.
3. 265 N Broadway Street
Built in 1896
Operated as the Bank of Ellsworth until 1930. After prohibition was repealed, a tavern opened in 1934. In 1979 it became Joe’s Nite Deposit (bar). In the 1990s it was called The Bank (bar). In 1999 it was renamed Scottie’s Tavern. In 2003, Danny Dunn purchased the establishment and opened it as Danny Dunn’s. While there have been 2 different owners since then, it remains Danny Dunn’s with Danny himself tending bar upon occasion.
4. 259 N Broadway Street
Built in 1896
First opening as a drug store in 1896, in 1917 it was sold to Harold Nilssen who then ran Nilssen’s Drug Store until he retired in 1967. Joel Schulze and Lyle Rasmussen moved the pharmacy to a larger space in 1977. A men’s clothing store, Country Gentleman, opened there and later closed. A surplus store called ‘Bargains & Buys’ operated there, and then a collectible sports card store called ‘Rock the House’ in 1991. ‘P.H. Toys & Collectibles‘ occupied the building in the mid-90s. And finally an electronics store there in 1998. The building is now being utilized for the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Pop-Up Shop Program.
The upstairs of this property housed many doctors and dentists from 1900 to 1947, including Dr. Riley (dentist) and Dr. Klaas (doctor).
5. 249 N Broadway Street
Built in 1908
Originally the McCollow General Store, in 1928 it was renamed the Lincoln Cash Store, offering home delivery. When the Lincoln Cash Store moved in 1933, a new Federated Stores of America general store opened. A dress store was added in 1934 and the grocery department was discontinued. A beauty parlor opened on the balcony the same year. In 1948, a new front was put on the building with display windows and two front entrances. Another remodel in 1950 added an additional 20 feet in the back of the building for a ready-to-wear department. In 1954, Butler’s V Store opened until it moved in 1977 making way for a furniture store later that fall. A new & used shop opened there and closed in 1995. Then an antique and art shop, followed by D & D Trading Company, and finally East End Market. The property is now vacant.