The Granite Block Building: Fun facts about Redwood Falls' turn-of-the-century shopping mallHhen it was built in 1902, the “Granite Block Building” on the corner of Washington and E. Second Streets was Redwood Falls' first shopping mall; today it is home to two family-owned businesses now in their third generation of ownership.
Today it is known as the home of Sward-Kemp Snyder Drug.
However, when it was built in 1902, the "Granite Block Building" on the corner of Washington and E. Second Streets was Redwood Falls' first shopping mall.
Today the Granite Block Building is owned by Scott Nelson, and is home to two family-owned businesses now in their third generation of ownership.
The building itself:
• Before 1885, most of Redwood Falls' stores were built of wood.
However, after a fire destroyed most of the Second Street businesses, the city council demanded all new downtown stores be built of fireproof materials such as brick or stone.
The Granite Block Building cost $15,000 to build from granite from North Redwood, and was paid for by a bank president, a pharmacist, and an attorney.
Construction was state of the art for the time, with gas lighting and hot-and-cold water.
• If you stand at the corner of Washington and E. Second Streets and look in all four directions, you'll notice the streets all slope downward.
The Granite Block Building is on one of the highest points in the area, which is why the original Redwood Falls stockade was built on that approximate spot.
• At different times the building housed two barbershops, and a beauty salon in the basement. KLGR radio was originally housed in an upstairs office, along with several attorneys' offices.
• The barbershop in the basement, the Granite Block Shaving Parlor, had a tub where you could take a bath in hot, fresh water for a dollar.
• There's a bullet hole in one of the upstairs office floors. Years ago, when that room was an attorney's office, the lawyer accidentally shot a hole through the floor while cleaning a gun.
According to Dr. Tom Inglis the bullet hole is still there, now covered up by a carpet.
• Each of the three stories (including the basement) has a concrete walk-in safe, all built on top of each other.
Sward-Kemp Snyder Drug
• The first pharmacy in Redwood Falls was founded by Dr. Dennis Hitchcock, who settled in Redwood Falls in 1865 and ran southwest Minnesota's first drug store out of his home.
Dennis Hitchcock later started "The Old Reliable Drug Store" on Mill St. He eventually moved it to an unused saloon that had better heating in the winter.
After Dennis died in 1884, the pharmacy was run by his son Hiram, who doubled as pharmacist and optometrist. When the Granite Block Building was built, Hiram relocated his store there next to the State Bank on the corner.
• In addition to a pharmacy, Hitchcock also made space for a optical office and a book section containing up to 3,000 volumes for sale.
• After Hiram retired and moved to Minneapolis, the store went through several owners until it was sold to George Sward, a Springfield-based pharmacist, and Louis Kemp in 1925.
• Gus Nelson moved to Redwood Falls from Worthington to manage Sward-Kemp's store. In 1930, Nelson bought out George Sward's interest in the business. Nelson and his son John bought Louis Kemp's interest in 1976.
Despite Sward not being associated with the business in almost 90 years, or Kemp associated with it for nearly 40 years, current owner Scott Nelson said he has no plan to change the Sward-Kemp name since that's what everyone has known the business as for decades.
• In 1977, Gus and John Nelson bought the adjoining shoe store, clothing store, and barbershop when they joined the Snyder Drug chain, which required each of its franchises to have a certain number of square feet.
• Sward-Kemp Snyder drug is built on a variety of levels inside today because it's actually made up of what used to be up to six separate business spaces in the past.
The health-and-beauty aids upstairs section behind the front counter has been, among other things, a bank and a military recruitment center.
The current Hallmark Card section was once the Melges shoe store.
A gift section in the back was once a unused courtyard between four other buildings. It was eventually roofed and turned into retail space since it didn't have any access to the alley.
The current pharmacy space is located in what was once a clothing store and a barber shop.
Inglis dental offices
• Dr. James Inglis graduated from a Michigan dental school in 1901 and moved to Redwood Falls in 1904, where he joined Dr. E.A. Lyman's office upstairs in the new Granite Block Building.
• Dr. James Inglis operated the dental practice until his death in 1943. The dentistry office was closed until James' son Stephen returned from World War II and reopened it in 1946. Stephen worked there from 1946-2002.
• James' son, Dr. Tom Inglis, has been based in the office since 1978.
• Tom Inglis believes the staircase up to his office was at one point outdoors, on the side of the building.