Day Block Building
The Day Block Building, built in 1883, was named for Leonard Day, a local flour milling and lumber entrepreneur. Day owned the entire city block, and following the standard of the times, the first building on the block was named after its owner. The building was designed in the Queen Anne Revival style. The exact reason Leonard Day built the Day Block building is unknown. He was an entrepreneur, and it was thought he had some plan for it before his untimely death during the year of its construction.
Day was born in 1811 in Leeds, Maine. He began his foray into Minneapolis when he built a sawmill on the east side of St. Anthony Falls.
Between 1884 and 1885, the upper two floors of the Day Block building were used as a hospital. The Michigan and Wisconsin Hospital Company specialized in treating injuries and illnesses of mill workers who resided in the neighborhood. Mill workers were able to receive care through a $10/year health care plan.
Beginning in 1887, Peter O. Melby used the ground floor and basement for his furniture making and undertaking services. Melby was in business for more than thirty years.
Melby was born in Norway in 1857 where he learned the furniture-making trade. At twenty-three, he left Norway, first going to Ohio where he worked for General George Sherman. In 1881, Melby arrived in Minnesota where he clerked, learned the undertaking business, and furthered his knowledge of furniture making. In 1887, he struck out on his own and started his business in the Day Block Building. Melby continued with his business at Day Block until his death in 1921.
Newspaper advertisements show that Union Clothing also occupied the building during that time. During the first years of Union Clothing’s business, advertisements were in the Norwegian language and appeared in the local Norwegian-language newspaper, Skafforan.
Subsequently the advertisements were in English and appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The Norwegian connection is consistent with Melby’s location in the same building. The Union Clothing continued to operate in the building for forty years until its business closed in 1927.
Andrew Skoog, a leader of the local Swedish Tabernacle Choir, maintained a music store in the Day Block building between 1892-1893. He was known as a talented composer and hymn writer who wrote for local churches.
During Melby’s tenure in the building, Knute Hamsun, winner of the 1920 Nobel Prize in Literature, spent time in the store observing Americans and their customs and collecting material for a book he later published in Norway. Knute Hamsun spent several years in the United States, traveling and working at various jobs. His impressions were published in 1889 under the title Fra det modern Amerikas Aandsliv. The book is still available.
In 1912, fire started in the building damaging the various businesses including Melby’s, Union Clothing, and Advance Hotel. Advance Hotel advertised itself as a rooming house for “honest hardworking men” where “vice and rowdyism are not tolerated.”
The Star Tribune reported that Day Block was the site of a robbery on July 26, 1919, when burglars used a wagon to steal clothing, jewelry, and shoes from Union Clothing. The owners reported a loss of between $400 and $500 in inventory.
Frank’s Plumbing occupied the building for six decades. Maurice Frank opened “Frank’s Plumbing” in 1946. Frank’s advertised frequently in the Minneapolis Tribune and the Minneapolis Star until the early 1970s. The store initially sold new appliances but subsequently specialized in hard to
find antique and discontinued plumbing parts. During its latter years, Frank’s advertised by word of mouth. Frank’s advertised its moving and closure sale in the Star Tribune’s edition of July 5, 2002.
In August of 1949, Oken Brothers purchased the building.
Oken Brothers was a local wholesale produce and grocery supply store serving nearby residents and mill workers. The business occupied the lower floor, while the second and third floors were used as a boarding house with rooms available for rent by the week.
According to the Minneapolis Star, Minneapolis Show Case and Fixture Company also occupied the building in 1949.
In April 2005, Jeff Hahn purchased and began restoring the Day Block Building, keeping its historic character.
The following year, the third floor became home to Internet Exposure, Hahn’s web application development, and internet marketing firm.
In 2009, Day Block Event Center opened on the second floor. In 2014, Day Block Brewing, a local brewpub, opened on the ground floor.