Skinner Chamberlain

Albert Lea Historical Downtown Walking Tour

Skinner Chamberlain

Albert Lea, Minnesota 56007, United States

Created By: Freeborn County Historical Museum


Skinner Chamberlain 227 South Broadway

Built in 1924-25, this building has served a variety of purposes, predominately of the department store type. This four story building contains red wire faced brick and terra cotta tile trim of white and green squares. It displays Craftsman display and Classical Revival influences.

In the 1890s a retail store named Gage, Hayden and Co. opened in a new building in the 200 block of South Broadway Avenue. What was also called the Big Four Store was located in a three-story building which had the retail portion on the first floor, offices and the Gage Opera House on the upper two floors, and a barber shop in the basement.

About a half block to the north, Bert Skinner had purchased the Albert Lea Mercantile Co. in 1897 and changed the name to Skinner Mercantile Co. Across the street was a small grocery store owned and operated by Bert’s brother, Frank Skinner. And not far away their brother-in-law, William G. Chamberlain, had a men’s clothing store. In April 1902, the three men purchased the Big Four Store and formed Skinner, Chamberlain and Co.

It wasn’t long before this particular business became a real department store with an expansion into the former office area and opera house portion. By 1912, the firm had the following layout: first floor – dry goods, clothing, shoes, groceries; first balcony – art goods, sheet music, rest rooms; second floor – millinery, ladies’ ready-to-wear garments, carpets, curtains; third floor and balcony – crockery, glasswear, kitchenware, toys. To provide better customer access to the store’s upper floors, Skinner Chamberlain installed the area’s first elevator. In 1924 the big building was remodeled from the basement to the roof. A fourth floor was added and the front of the building was given its present appearance.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Albert Lea Historical Downtown Walking Tour


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