Northwestern Knitting Company/ Munsingwear

Individual Landmark

International Market Square

 

 Market_St_275_Northwestern_Knitting_Co-1
 

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Address: 718 Glenwood Avenue/ 275 Market Street

Neighborhood: Sumner/Glenwood

Construction Date: 1910-1915

Contractor: John Wunder

Architect: Bertrand and Chamberlain

Architectural Style: Classical Revival

Historic Use: Industrial - Factory

Current Use: Commercial/Office

Date of Local Designation: 1984

Date of National Register Designation: 1983

Area(s) of Significance: Commerce, Engineering, Industry, Invention

Period of Significance: 1900-1981

Historic Profile: The profitable Minneapolis flour and lumber industries of the late nineteenth century have a tendency to overshadow the lesser-known textile industry, but in 1912 the Northwestern Knitting Company became the nation’s leading manufacturer of underwear. Financially backed by two top millers, Clinton Morrison and Charles Pillsbury, the Northwestern Knitting Company operated under similar strategies of the flour giants: technological innovation, the promotion of a single brand name, and the imaginative innovation. In 1888, the company’s founder, George Munsing, invented a method of plating woolen fibers with silk and cotton to take the "itch" out of woolen underwear. The less bulky, single-piece undergarments patented in 1891 propelled Munsingwear to become the nation’s leading producer and distributor of underwear. The tremendous success of the Northwestern Knitting Company necessitated the need for factory expansion. Between 1904 and 1915 the site on Glenwood Avenue expanded to include five major buildings. Architects Bertrand and Chamberlain employed unifying Neoclassical Revival features such as slightly projecting cornices, fretwork friezes, and fluted Doric columns. Structurally, building #4 is significant for its early use of reinforced concrete construction methods, a technique credited with revolutionizing American building technology. The Northwestern Knitting Company continued to thrive through the twentieth century, producing Munsingwear as well as diversified products until 1981 when a deteriorating national economy forced the factory in Minneapolis to close. Renovated in the 1980s into offices and showrooms for home furnishing companies as well as urban lofts, the International Market Square has become a leading example of adaptive re-use in Minneapolis.

Photo Credits:

1963, Vincent H. Mart, courtesy of The Minnesota Historical Society

Courtesy of IMS Lofts

Works Cited:

"National Register of Historic Places – Nomination Study," January 1983.

Updated: February 2007

Last updated Nov 1, 2016

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