St. Cloud hosts the MN State Historic Preservation Annual Conference, Preserve MN, September 11-13. Learn more and register here.
History comes alive when you stroll the streets of downtown St. Cloud, especially at these well-known historic buildings. So many stories lie within the bricks and beams of these downtown structures, and we hope to shed a little light on the past with a look at some of Downtown St. Cloud’s most historic buildings. For more information on every historic building downtown, check out the Historic Downtown Walking Tour. NOTE: Past excerpts have been provided by the St. Cloud Heritage and Preservation Commission and the St. Cloud Downtown Council.
The Davidson Opera House
113 5th Ave. South | 1897
PAST: Designed in the Romanesque Style by architect Harry G. Carter, the Davidson Opera House was a venue for such famous performers as Ethel Barrymore, Maud Adams, Billie Burke, and John Philip Sousa. Patrons were able to easily walk between the opera house and the Grand Central Hotel (site of the modern Courtyard by Marriott). This rough-faced granite, three-story structure was damaged by fire and reduced to two floors in 1913.
PRESENT: Restored and by BCI Construction in 2016, this building boasts an urban-chic design that pays homage to its glamorous past. Currently it’s home to the offices of EPromos.
D. B. Searle Building
18-20 5th Ave. South | 1886
PAST: Originally designed by A.E. Hussey and built as the German American Bank, this Victorian Commercialstyle building features red-pressed brick and granite trim. Later on it also served as headquarters for the Pan Motor Company. The original owner, Dolson Bush Searle, was a Stearns County 7th Judicial District Judge. He also served on President Lincoln’s staff, and was present at Ford’s Theater the night Lincoln was assassinated. The building was slated for demolition in 1977, but survived and was remodeled for its present use.
PRESENT: This building has been home to several restaurants and bars throughout history, but currently sits vacant with hopes of bringing more life to 5th Ave. again soon.
First National Bank Building
501-503 West St. Germain Street | 1889
PAST: An impressive building in the Richardson Romanesque style, this was once St. Cloud’s largest bank. Having been designed by architect Charles Sedgwick, the First National Bank building retains its original three-story red-pressed brick and granite facade. The west bay of the building was added later, in 1918.
PRESENT: This beautiful giant on the corner of 5th Ave S. and West St. Germain was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, and underwent renovations in 2016. The renovations aimed to preserve as much of the history as possible, while updating the building to ensure the conveniences of a modern office complex. Today it’s home to the offices of Kensington Bank, the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation, several other organizations, and even MC’s Dugout, a bar and restaurant, on the lowest level.
Jones & Long Facades
510 & 512-514 West St. Germain Street | 1907
PAST: These are Victorian false fronts. A fine egg and dart molding and polished granite adorn the Jones Building. The Long second-story facade is marked by a metal cornice and leaded glass windows. Edwin P. Long was a jeweler and real estate developer, and Walter “Candy Man” Jones satisfied the sweet tooth of many local residents with his confections.
PRESENT: Still delivering on the promise of fun and whimsy, the Jones & Long Facades located at 510 and 514 West St. Germain Street are now home to the popular Cowboy Jack’s Saloon, the now-closed Invincible Costume shop, and Granite City Comics and Games.
11 6th Ave. North | 1925
PAST: Also referred to in local literature as the Recreational Hotel, the Spaniol Hotel was erected as an advanced hotel for the period. Designed by architects Fisher and Schaefer, it features a stone cut foundation, brick primary exterior and stone cut secondary exterior. Details include light brown multicolored brick and common brick sidewalls, and second and third story windows with stone sills and lintels. Built with 52 rooms, the Spaniol Hotel had amenities considered very modern for the time, such as water-cooled air conditioning, running water in the rooms, and some suites which featured full bathrooms and all-electric lighting. It also featured a cafe and soda fountains, a billiard parlor, formal dining room, and six partially automated bowling lanes. Interestingly, no bar was included in the original design due to Prohibition, but it did have a reputation as a speakeasy.
PRESENT: Keeping in fashion with housing, the Spaniol Hotel is now home to several efficiency apartment units. The bottom floor is rented by Cream City Tattoo, a tattoo parlor and art gallery, as well as Lund Ross Law Firm.
701 West St. Germain Street | 1904
PAST: Brothers August and Theodore Edelbrock were clothing and shoe merchants, and this building displays their success in early St. Cloud. Designed by architect A.J. Blix, it features red-pressed brick with granite trim. It is one of the corner commercial buildings on West St. Germain that has been maintained in excellent condition. Abbot Alexis Edelbrock, cousin to August and Theodore, built nearby St. John’s University.
PRESENT: This cornerstone building is home to the Hop Shop on the main floor. Above that lies StudioJeff, a dance studio, and Self Luminescence LLC., a yoga and holistic wellness studio.
720 West St. Germain Street | 1937
PAST: Originally built as St. Cloud’s Post Office, this building retains its original WPA Modern features, including columnar windows set in bronze frames, polished granite walls, and the paired entrance light columns capped with pineapple motifs. Originally, the lobby contained a mural by artist David Granham which depicted scenes from St. Cloud’s granite industry (it has since moved to the Stearns History Museum). In the 1850’s, before the Federal Building was built, this was the site of the St. Benedict’s Convent, which moved to St. Joseph in 1864.
PRESENT: Still standing stark and powerful, the Federal Building now houses the corporate offices of Netgain Technology. Many tributes to the building’s history can still be found around the interior of the design.
Stearns County Courthouse
801 1st Street N. | 1921
PAST: The structure reveals handsome brickwork, terra cotta banding, and polished granite columns. Inscribed in the locally-procured granite above these columns is the phrase “A landmark to civic progress, a memorial to sturdy pioneers”. Also, the sculpted steer heads above the windows are a unique architectural feature unto themselves. Visitors are encouraged to view the grand staircase, marble furnishings, and the murals on the interior of the rotunda depicting Native American scenes. This building was constructed on the site of a previous red brick courthouse on land donated by St. Cloud’s founder, John L. Wilson. Dwight Eisenhower spoke on the courthouse steps while campaigning for president in 1952, and scenes from the Disney movie “The Mighty Ducks” were filmed in the main courtroom.
PRESENT: The Stearns County Courthouse, inspired by the City Beautiful movement, was restored to its original splendor in 1991 with a $4.2 million renovation project. The major court administration department functions that take place in the Courthouse include civil case trials and the management side of court files.
819 West St. Germain Street | 1888
PAST: This building was designed by Allen E. Hussey in the Romanesque Revival style. It was constructed with a red brick front and gray stone sills on three upper level windows, as well as decorative granite on the street-level entranceway. Note the rare second story window frames with incised carving that has managed to stay intact over the years. It has housed a wide variety of tenants over the years, including the Hunstiger Meat Market, a Piggly Wiggly store, a sport shop, and bakeries, including the Townhouse Bakery which resided in the building from 1971 to 2004.
PRESENT: Currently this former everything-store location is occupied by Adventure Advertising Agency.
Breen Hotel & Sherman Theatre
901-913 West St. Germain Street | 1921
PAST: Designed by architect Leo Schaefer, the Sherman Theatre, now the Paramount, has had a long history as vaudeville, film, and legitimate theater. Opening Christmas Eve 1921, it has been referred to as “St. Cloud’s largest and finest playhouse,” with seating for 1,700 people. The vintage auditorium has been remodeled for contemporary use. Academy Award winning actor Gig Young, who was actually St. Cloud native Byron Barr, once worked in the theater as an usher. The Breen Hotel, now the Germain Towers, features cream-colored enameled tile ornamentation which enhances the interior. Henry Breen built the hotel for $600,000, and his son Robert went on to become a Broadway actor.
PRESENT: The 1950’s saw the Paramount fall into disrepair, and it was only used for small-scale viewings. After years of neglect, it fell victim to a fire in 1985, causing upwards of $60,000 of damage. In the early 1990s, efforts began to restore the Paramount to a live theater once again. With ongoing improvements that keep with the history grandeur of the theater, it’s still a magical theatrical experience. The Breen Hotel has been transformed into the Paramount Gift Gallery and event space, apartment housing, an optometrist clinic, and office buildings primarily for the Paramount staff.
912 West St. Germain Street | 1925
PAST: Since its construction, the Sivinski building has been an anchor of the downtown, especially since it marks the edge of the Commercial Historic District. Having been designed by Leo Schaefer in the fashionable Commercial Style of architecture, it features a brick and ceramic tile exterior, and rectangular Chicago-style windows. The original owner was Theodore Sivinski, who used the building as a large furniture store.
PRESENT: Very much still an anchor to downtown St. Cloud, this building is now known more as the Regency. Home to an event center, salon, retail shops, an art gallery, and several offices, it’s always busy and a hub for many activities downtown.
St. Mary’s Cathedral
23 8th Ave. South | 1930
PAST: This classic Basilica style church replaced a structure built in 1865 that had been destroyed by fire in 1920. St. Mary’s was established for Germanspeaking Catholics and has been staffed by Benedictine monks from St. John’s Abbey since its founding. A Byzantine-inspired church designed by architect Nairne Fisher, St. Mary’s Cathedral is distinguished by such features as its tiled roof, polished granite columns, highly-crafted wooden doors, and intricate ironwork. The stained glass window in the apse features blue and white patterns from the Bavarian flag, and serve as a tribute to Bavarian King Ludwig I for his contribution to the founding of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville. Visitors might notice the appearance of a swastika on the First Street side of the church, but this is actually an ancient symbol for life and good fortune.
PRESENT: Still operating as one of the area’s most breathtaking churches. St. Mary’s is a cornerstone to the Catholic faith in St. Cloud. Mass is held daily at varying times, and a yearly block party every September acts as a fundraiser and a way to learn more about the church.