I'm fascinated by the way cities used to look, with the corner grocery store, hardware store, restaurant, and of course bar, tucked into neighborhoods, spaced about a mile apart. The resident of the 1920's city could walk to get everything they needed or take a trolley if they needed something just a little bit further. Peppered throughout my neighborhood in Northeast, Minneapolis are dozens of small two story buildings, but most have been converted into apartments. There are several though that have maintained their original use, the buildings with first floor bars.
Curious, I decided to look into their history and found that many of these bars have been around since the early 1900's. Today we have bars that sell beer from local breweries, but back then the breweries were building bars to sell their own beer. Located at 225 Main Street NE was a first floor bar with a sign reading Gluek Brewing Co's Beer. Shaw's at 1528 University Avenue NE was built in 1901 by the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company. Jimmy's at 1828 4th Street NE was built in 1900 by Minneapolis Brewing Company (today known as Grainbelt).
There are exceptions to this trend. Our neighborhood favorite, Grumpy's (2200 4th Street NE) was built in 1906 by owner August Wihleim and Mayslacks (1428 4th Street NE) was built by owner George Kujawa in 1900. Both were your standard neighborhood watering hole.
All of these bars were built in the early 1900's and still operate as such today. Despite have different architects and builders, they shared the same basic building designs: two-story rectangular brick building with the bar on the first floor. The costs to construct ranged between $1,500 for Mayslacks to $5,500 for Grumpy's. What is interesting to note is that while most small scale buildings of the time were done by local craftsman, most of these bars were designed by architects. Shaws and Jimmy's were designed by architect S.J. Bowlar and Grumpy's by architects Kirchhoff and Rose.
We lose more of our history to development pressures each day. Restaurants come and go, retail shops struggle to make it. All the neighborhood grocery stores closed up decades ago. The bars however have managed to weather over 100 years of change in how we live in our cities. We may not have the population to support the neighborhood grocery store, but the bars are holding strong. They remain a constant for the neighborhoods surrounding them, showing that not everything about the way our neighborhoods operate has changed.