Knowlton Department Store

Downtown Rochester

Knowlton Department Store

Rochester, Minnesota 55902, United States

Created By: History Center of Olmsted County


For nearly 100 years, a shopping mecca was located at the northwest corner of Broadway and Second Street Southwest. It had a couple of different names before becoming E.A. Knowlton & Co., which reigned for decades as Rochester’s largest department store.

Owner Elliott Knowlton, who had started as a clerk, eventually brought his sons Clarence and George into the business.

The store burned to the ground in 1917, but the Knowlton family quickly put up a new emporium at the same site. Knowlton’s carried groceries and clothing, and the U.S. Post Office even had a station in the store. It was the heart of the downtown shopping district before suburban-style plazas and malls drew shoppers to outlying areas of the city.

In 1952, Elliott’s granddaughter Evelyn Knowlton, who was running the firm at the time, sold the building to the Dayton Co., of Minneapolis. Dayton’s announced it would open its first branch store outside the Twin Cities in Rochester. The new owners tore down the Knowlton’s building that so many shoppers knew for so many years and in its place put up an entirely new store, with eight levels of merchandise.

Dayton’s stayed downtown until moving to Apache Mall in 1972. The former Dayton’s store was later occupied by Northwestern Bell and a Red Lobster restaurant, and then became Mayo Clinic’s Rosa Parks Pavilion.

History Center of Olmsted County

This point of interest is part of the tour: Downtown Rochester


Leave a Comment



Download the App

Download the PocketSights Tour Guide mobile app to take this self-guided tour on your GPS-enabled mobile device.

iOS Tour Guide Android Tour Guide



Updates and Corrections

Please send change requests to