The Young-Quinlan Housewarming

It was on this day ninety years ago that the doors to the Elizabeth C. Quinlan building in Minneapolis first opened its doors. It was the new home of the Young-Quinlan department store. The building was designed by residential architect Frederick L. Ackerman from New York to be a  “beautiful home” for customers to shop in. In fact, the grand opening of the building was dubbed a housewarming by Quinlan.

Thousands of people lined up along Nicollet, as well as Ninth Street, which was almost shut down to automobiles because of the crowd, for the chance at being among the first to see  Quinlan’s “perfect gem” of a building. The store would be open from 10:00 am until 5:30 pm, and again from 7:30 until 10:00 pm to allow everyone a chance to tour the store.

Minneapolis Mayor George Leach spoke at the opening ceremony and remarked that Quinlan “would always be remembered as one of the true builders of this city.” He then called for three cheers for Quinlan, which the crowd of thousands gave enthusiastically.

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Fred D. Young of the Young-Quinlan Company

While many people recognize the name Elizabeth Quinlan because of her public role and decades of leadership at the Young-Quinlan Company, few know about Fred Young.

Frederick Dean Young was born in Freeport, Illinois in 1862. By the time he was thirty years old, Young was living in Minneapolis with is mother and brother and one of the top salespeople at Goodfellow and Eastman Dry Goods. It was there that he met Elizabeth Quinlan. Young and Quinlan became good friends and he convinced her to join him in opening their own specialty shop for women. Quinlan agreed to join Fred D. Young and Company as a buyer and salesperson for three months. If it didn’t work out, she would return to her job at Goodfellow and Eastman.

Young opened his first store in a subleased corner of Vrooman’s Glove Company in the Syndicate Building. And of course, the business worked out. Young handled the business administration and advertising for the store, while Quinlan did the buying and selling. Quinlan saved her money and was able to buy an equal partnership with Young in the early 1900s. In 1903, Young recognized the “value of [Quinlan’s] name in connection with a store devoted exclusively to fashion to women,” which led him to change the name of the store to the Young-Quinlan Company.

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Elizabeth C. Quinlan Building: The Ramp

This week marks the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Elizabeth C. Quinlan building in downtown Minneapolis. The building at 901 Nicollet was home to the Young-Quinlan Department Store. I’ll be sharing interesting tidbits about the building, the store, Elizabeth Quinlan, and Fred Young all week. First up: The Ramp.

Even before the Elizabeth C. Quinlan building opened in 1926, word began to spread about the building’s underground parking ramp. The underground ramp was the one of the first of its kind in the country, and the concept was quickly copied by other retail establishments.

Quinlan asked all of her employees to refer to the underground parking as “the ramp” or “the parking floor”, and never as a parking garage. The ramp wasn’t just a convenience for Young-Quinlan customers; it was a public service as well. It was the largest parking ramp in the city with stalls for 250 automobiles. It was open twenty-four hours a day, every day. This convenience made the ramp an attractive place to park in the evenings. Anyone could park in the ramp between 6:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. for just a quarter. As an added benefit, expert washing and oiling services were offered in the ramp as well.

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Quinlan’s Renaissance Revival Palace

Elizabeth C. Quinlan was the cofounder of the Young-Quinlan Department Store in downtown Minneapolis. The popularity of her store was due, in large part, to offering exceptionally-made clothing and accessories to not only the elite women of Minneapolis, but also to the upper-middle class. The lower cost of ready-to-wear clothing meant that upper-middle class women could buy off the rack — thus having more than a handful of outfits for each season, and a quick and easy way to obtain the latest fashions. Quinlan’s enormous success enabled her to do many things that most women during this time could not. At the height of her success, she built a beautiful home for herself and her sister, Annie. Their Minneapolis home would become a top address on the Twin Cities movers-and-shakers circuit.

After their mother’s death in 1914, the Quinlan sisters lived in rented apartments, including 1770 Hennepin Avenue and The Leamington — a swish residence hotel at 10th and Third Avenue S.  Annie, who owned the corset shop at Young-Quinlan, and Elizabeth decided to build a comfortable home for themselves in the prestigious Lowry Hill neighborhood in Minneapolis. Together, they purchased two-and-a-half city lots on Emerson Avenue S and set about finding an architect to build their dream home. Elizabeth knew New York architect Frederick Ackerman through his wife. Ackerman was a Cornell graduate and had studied architecture in Paris for two years before earning a reputation for building beautifully private country residences.

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Elizabeth Quinlan – The Queen of Minneapolis

In an age before women had the right to vote, Elizabeth C. Quinlan was a natural entrepreneur who had a business acumen that rivaled most men of her era. Quinlan made a name for herself by buying and selling the finest ready-to-wear clothing and accessories in downtown Minneapolis. Her innovative retailing ideas were copied by merchants from coast to coast. An acute business sense and cutting-edge fashion instinct made her hugely successful, but it was her warm and witty personality that made her the queen of Minneapolis.

Born in Madison, Wisconsin to Irish immigrant parents in 1863, Elizabeth C. Quinlan started working for Minneapolis’ leading dry goods store, Goodfellow and Eastman, at the age of sixteen. Over the next fifteen years, Quinlan would go from earning ten dollars per week to becoming the store’s top-earning sales person—making more than any of her male colleagues.

While working at Goodfellow and Eastman, fate dealt Quinlan a life-changing opportunity in the form of Fred D. Young, the store’s second most successful sales person, and her close friend. Together, they dreamed of opening an exclusive salon selling only the finest silks, satins, and furs. Young said that he wanted to open a store and begin “clothing the women of the northwest in a manner to make Paris fashionistas sit up and take notice.”

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