The Leuthold Store, build 1893, with Harris Hardware in the north half.
The Leuthold Store, build 1893, with Harris Hardware in the north half.
Have you heard tell of the Leuthold stores? When John Leuthold built the beautiful double building on North Broadway in 1893, he was already well known in Minnesota, with several men's clothing stores. Advertised as "The Fashionable Clothier," he offered an amazing variety of wares for men: suits, tailoring, fur coats, gloves, neckwear, fine jewelry for men, trunks and "grips" (a small bag used for traveling). Born on a farm near Ostrander, John Leuthold had been in business long before his 40-year tenure in Spring Valley. He had come in 1883 from Kasson, and moved twice to ever-larger quarters before he was able to purchase two lots on North Broadway.

Contractor L.H. Osterud erected the handsome two-story building using local materials. It was fortunate that enterprising businessman Isaac Todd had just established his brickyard four miles northeast of town. His marvelous new brick-making machine could produce 20,000 bricks a day, a far cry from the old brick mold where bricks were laboriously crafted by hand, one of which (brick mold) can be seen at the Spring Valley Historical Society's Ag Building on West Courtland. Charlie Belden was the master bricklayer, and the light-colored stone trim was cut from Thayer & Cummings' quarry near town.

The new double building was to be furnished with electric lights available from the newly built electric light plant located on Park Street. Frank Harris was to occupy the north half as a hardware store ,with his tin and repair shop on the upper story. Above Leuthold, the space was furnished as offices for attorneys, dentists, and later the telephone office was also located there. Note the iron hitching rails out front where one could tie up a team of horses while doing their weekly shopping. Those were no doubt wooden sidewalks, raised above the unpaved dusty streets. There was much fanfare when the large gilt-lettered signs went up, a striking facade to show off the amazing stone-arched windows. By the way, this lovely facade is still there, hidden by modern aluminum siding. The clothing line continued for over 100 years, with later owners that some may remember: Leuthold & Aamot, Leuthold & Majors, Major & Roberts in 1954, and lastly, John and Darlene Vrieze. A law office is presently at this site.

Hardware merchant Frank Harris was born in a log cabin near Racine, Minn. In his youth, he came to Spring Valley to work for another hardware dealer, A.P. Flower. By 1886, Harris had established his own business and was in the Leuthold building from its inception. Hard goods were essential to this primarily agricultural community and a photo of Harris Hardware shows countless pieces of equipment. There were the usual shovels, spades, rakes, pitchforks, funnels, feed baskets and more. Fuel and milk cans and pails, wash boiler tubs and many more were produced upstairs in the tin shop where Fred. Hamlin was employed. Shelves showed slop jars with lids, teakettles, double boilers, coffeepots, and drawers for all sizes of nails, bolts and paraphernalia. Fishing poles, guns and ammo were also in stock, as well as stoves, wheelbarrows, and anything a farmer might need.

During his business years, Frank Harris became president of First National Bank, and was active in the Masonic and Shriner lodges. In 1914, he sold the business to John Bowden. However, most of us old-timers remember it as Erich Kehrberg's Our Own Hardware store. Kehrberg came to town in 1933 and remained in business until his retirement in 1967. Harris and his family eventually moved to California, where they developed a large orange ranch.

Just a reminder: the museum complex is open daily this summer, l0 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the last guided tour starting at 3. Visitors can tour the Methodist Church Museum, a Laura Ingalls Wilder site and Victorian Gothic marvel now on the National Register of Historic Places; the amazing Washburn-Zittleman Historic Home; the Ag Building bulging with antique farm machine but also including a Bernard Pietenpol handcrafted airplane; plus the History Hall with its one-room school, military display, Doc Zittleman's office, and the Washerwoman's Delight (or Nightmare!)

There is an admission fee, and allow two hours to thoroughly enjoy all there is to see.