The building that is home to the Fitness Connection is now as fit as its customers. Owners Bryan and Debbie Hill have recently completed restoration on their building located at 58 East Broadway, Little Falls. Restoration work included tuckpointing the brick and repairing the decorative cornice. The building retains its original appearance with the exclusion of the wood in-fill of the lower level windows.
The Fitness Connection building was constructed in a classically inspired style in 1906-07 by the Jacob Kiewel Brewing Company. Jacob Kiewel bought his brewery from Rudolph Koch in 1893. The brewery, located on 7th Street Northeast, was officially incorporated as the Jacob Kiewel Brewing Company in 1906. Kiewel Brewing Company was known for White Rose Beer, White Seal Beer, and SUPER White Seal Bear. During Prohibition (1920-1933), the brewing company produced ice cream and other dairy products. When Prohibition ended, the Kiewel Brewing Company resumed brewing beer. The brewing business was good for the Kiewel family and allowed them to build several business blocks in Little Falls, including the building housing the Fitness Connection.
An article in the March 29, 1907, issue of the Little Falls Daily Transcript describes its construction. “The second floor of the building is now in the hands of the painters and will be entirely finished by Saturday night. This floor contains five office rooms and a large hall. The hall is 25 x 90 feet in size, has hardwood floors, steel ceiling and is lighted by four clusters of white globed electric lights similar to those in use in the opera house.” The article continues by saying that the hall would be used for dances and social events.
The lower level of the building served several hardware stores. A Little Falls City Directory dated 1916-17 shows Julius Jetka operating his hardware store from this location. In 1934, John H. (Hans) Bares acquired the building and opened the Bares Hardware Store after some remodeling. A March 26, 1934, Daily Transcript article describes the newly refurbished store. “The new scientific scheme of hardware display places all merchandise in plain sight. Twelve tables are placed in the center of the store, while cabinets, bins and display ledges skirt the two walls. The ceiling has been redecorated in ivory, with side walls of light green. The woodwork is in a cream and mahogany color scheme and constructed along moderately modernistic lines.” The store remained Bares Hardware until 1978, when John and Mary Lou Burke purchased the building with the intention of affiliating with True Value Hardware.
This property is a contributing building in the Little Falls National Historic District. The Heritage Preservation Commission is presenting the Fitness Connection with a plaque to identify the historic significance of this beautiful structure and the work the Hills have done in maintaining the exterior.
By Mary Warner
Copyright 2004, Morrison County Historical Society