Newspaper Row Part 2: A Centralized Newspaper District
PVN recently completed documentation of the Star Tribune Building at 425 Portland Avenue South in Minneapolis. During the course of writing the history of the Star Tribune building, we researched a fascinating bit of Twin Cities' history: Newspaper Row.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, “Newspaper Row” occupied the stretch of Fourth Street from First Avenue North to First Avenue South (now Marquette Avenue). According to the late Minneapolis Tribune columnist William J. McNally, Newspaper Row was “filled with glamour and romance.” In addition to housing the offices and print shops of a half dozen newspapers, the street hosted book binders, printers, a tailor, Regan’s Lunch Room, and a rich cast of characters that populated not only the newspaper offices, but also the neighborhood music halls and taverns.
As home to the Saturday Evening Spectator, the Minneapolis Journal, the Minneapolis Tribune, the Penny Press, the Minneapolis Times, and the Minneapolis offices of the St. Paul Globe and The Pioneer Press, Newspaper Row was driven by competition. Reporters from the various papers may have gathered together for a meal at Regan’s or for drinks and debate at Shiek’s Café (45-47 South Third Street), but their livelihoods, and the success of the newspapers for which they worked, depended on a writer’s ability to be the first to break a story. The camaraderie and rivalries motivated writers and editors from the 1880s until the 1940s, when the Tribune staff moved to the Star Journal (now Star Tribune) building on Portland Avenue South, leaving the Times as the last paper on Newspaper Row.
Don't miss our first post about Newspaper Row, The Origins of Newspaper Row and the Tribune Building.
A Newspaper District
The construction of the Tribune’s office building on Fourth Street started a trend among newspaper owners in Minneapolis and St. Paul. By the time that the Tribune Building was destroyed by a tragic fire in 1889, the St. Paul Globe, Saturday Evening Spectator, and Minneapolis Journal had begun construction on signature office buildings on Fourth Street, setting the stage for a consolidated newspaper district. The section of Fourth Street between what are now Hennepin and Marquette Avenues sat at the heart of the Minneapolis retail and business district, an attractive location for newspaper offices because advertising sales, particularly retail advertisements, were essential to a newspaper’s survival.
The St. Paul Globe constructed a building at 20 Fourth Street South and advertised anticipated residency by December 1, 1888. Designed by E. Townsend Mix, the Richardsonian Romanesque office building included a distinctive tower and, like the 1887 Mix-designed Globe building in St. Paul (Fourth and Cedar), included an interior light court. The newspaper had offices on the first and eighth floors and used the remaining office space to generate rental income.
The Minneapolis Journal building at 47-49 Fourth Street South was designed by William H. Dennis and opened in January of 1890. At four-stories, the Classical Revival building was considerably smaller than its neighboring newspaper buildings. Since the building served as the editorial offices and print shop for the paper, the Journal did not rent out office space like its competitors.
The Minneapolis Tribune hired the well-known architectural firm of Long and Kees to design a Renaissance Revival office building and shopping arcade that was completed in 1899. As it had done with its earlier building, the paper, along with the Tribune-owned Minneapolis Times, occupied the upper floors, continued to lease office space to professionals, and now rented storefronts on the first floor to small retailers. The Tribune’s new building, which was eventually known as the Times Building, sat less than 100 yards from the Journal on the south side of Fourth Street.
The Saturday Evening Spectator’s office building, Alexander Murrie’s 1889 Spectator Terrace, sat several blocks away from the Globe, Journal, and Tribune at 12 and 15 North Fourth Street. Similarly, when the Minnesota Star’s publishing company hired Oscar Newstrom to design their office building in 1919, they chose a site far from Newspaper Row at the corner of Fifth Street South and Sixth Avenue South (now Portland Avenue South; this building made up the southwest corner of the former Star Tribune building). For the Star, the distance may have had less to do with an available site on Newspaper Row and more to do with the Socialist-leaning paper’s outsider status.
Newspaper Row Society
Contrary to what its nickname might suggest, Fourth Street was not comprised solely of newspaper offices. The street was home to drug stores, printers and bookbinders, tailors’ shops, restaurants, and the Century Piano Company (the Century Piano Company’s building was acquired by the Tribune in 1913). Regan’s Lunch Room opened on Fourth Street in 1882 and, as a result of expansions, was able to serve 1500 people each day. Regan’s, which was adjacent to the Journal building, was so popular among businessmen that it was reported that the restaurant served “a hundred and thirty pounds of roast beef, sixty gallons of milk, and twelve bushes of cantaloupes during a single noonday meal.” Regan’s was also beloved for the quality of the food served, since the “proprietors served no article of food which they themselves would not eat.” In the evening, reporters and editors frequented Shieks Café. In addition to the newspaper crowd, Shiek’s drew local literary luminaries, likeSinclair Lewis, and performers from the nearby Metropolitan Opera House, including actor John Barrymore. In the early decades of the 20th century, the “Eternity Club” met in the back room of Sheik’s every Saturday night from 9pm to midnight. The club consisted of “Fourth Street’s amateur philosophers, poets, sociologists, musicians, and a medical student or two with thirsts literary and otherwise.”
Near the end of its heyday, Newspaper Row’s glamour began to fade. The newspaper offices lacked air conditioning and sweltered in the heat of Minnesota summers. The Depression left the papers with limited financial resources and newspaper offices operated with beat up desks and outdated or broken down equipment. The Globe folded in 1905, the Journal left Fourth Street for Portland Avenue upon its acquisition by the Cowles family in 1939, and the Tribune followed after a merger with the Star Journal in 1941. The Times stood as the last paper on Newspaper Row until it ceased publication in 1948.
In his “More or Less Personal” column in the Tribune, William McNally wrote, “In all Minneapolis I doubt if you could find a better locale for a novel than Fourth Street of long ago.” A fitting description for the street that once hosted reporters and showgirls, mobsters and philosophers, and that now serves as the home of the Hennepin County Library.
- Bradley L. Morrison, Sunlight on Your Doorstep: The Minneapolis Tribune’s First Hundred Years, 1867-1967 (Minneapolis: Ross & Haines, Inc., 1996), 47.
- Ibid, 51.
- Minneapolis City Directory, 1888-1889, 144A, Minneapolis City Directory Collection 1859-1922, Hennepin County Library, http://box2.nmtvault.com/Hennepin2/.
- Larry Millett, Lost Twin Cities (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1992), 188., 201.
- Ibid, Lost Twin Cities, 145.
- Morrison, Sunlight on Your Doorstep, 47; Jack El-Hai, Lost Minnesota: Stories of Vanished Places (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 54.
- El-Hai, Lost Minnesota, 54.
- Muriel B. Christison, “LeRoy S. Buffington and the Minneapolis Boom of the 1880s,” Minnesota History 23 (1942), 226.
- A.J. Russell, Fourth Street (Minneapolis: Town Press, 1917), 58.
- Morrison, Sunlight on Your Doorstep, 51.
- Russell, Fourth Street, 61-62.
- Morrison, Sunlight on Your Doorstep, 47.