History

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The History of the Braastad-Gossard Building

The Braastad-Gossard Building is a four-story painted sandstone-trimmed brick building standing at the southeast corner of Cleveland and Second Streets at the east edge of Ishpeming’s downtown. It housed a department store and then a factory in the 1888-1976 period. The 150 by 97-foot-footprint building was constructed in 1888 as a two-story building occupying half of the present footprint and expanded in 1903-04 into a three-story block of Late Victorian design, with a pressed metal cornice, rock-face stone trim and an arched entryway suggestive of Richardsonian Romanesque, and a square clock tower at the corner facing the intersection. It was remodeled largely in its present form in 1948, with a fourth story added by slightly raising the side and rear walls and installing a flat roof in place of the former one that slanted gently toward the rear, the front modernized with the cornice removed and a new recessed center entry with curving walls and glass block windows installed, and steel interior posts and beams installed replacing the timber posts and beams supporting the wooden floor system.

The Braastad Department Store Days

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As the 20th century began, F. Braastad & Co. changed from a small-town emporium into a glittering department store. In 1903, the Miners Journal published a breathless story about the demolition of the old buildings and construction of “a fine three-story block which will be a credit to the town and and a source of much pleasure to Mr. Braastad.” It would become a landmark with a clock tower jutting above the thick walls of pressed brick. The bells would ring every 15 minutes, audible reminders of the glories of merchandise on Cleveland Avenue. The store opened in November. More than 5,000 people came to gawk and shop. Each was handed a free carnation.

One year later, the grand new store burned down. It was rebuilt and restocked in a year but at a heavy cost in money and hard work. A year later, Braastad persuaded his son, Arvid Conrad Braastad, to take over as general manager. What became of that we know not, but in 1906 the old man announced that all his holdings were for sale.

The Gossard Factory Days

All the Women

In 1920, the H.W. Gossard Company, a maker of women’s corsets, bought a warehouse in Ishpeming. At its peak, the factory employed well over 500 people which were mostly women. It also helped to bring economic prosperity to the community by providing jobs for families other than at one of the mines. Its last day of operation was on December 31, 1976.

Pioneer Square Days

In early 1981 the building was purchased by a local development group and renovated into its current state. The building exterior was painted, entrance doors replaced at the front and rear and a new exit to the west was added along with an interior stair. The fire escapes to the north and west were removed. On the north (front) façade’s ground story globe light fixtures were added on each of the sandstone piers. Some of the windows were replaced, some filled in, and others framed into smaller openings. A concrete block passenger elevator tower was added to the south side of the building adjacent the older brick freight elevator tower; this only reaches to the third floor.

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