Column: Shuler building once stood where Caribou is today

Later this month Caribou Coffee will open at the northwest corner of Main and Ferry on the very site of the historic Shuler Building.

Bob Kirchner retired Thursday after 35 years with the city of Anoka, largely as its community development director. Photo by Mandy Moran Froemming
Bob Kirchner retired Thursday after 35 years with the city of Anoka, largely as its community development director. Photo by Mandy Moran Froemming

Edward P. Shaw constructed a two-story wood frame building here in 1854. It housed his general store, the post office and the second-floor medical office of Dr. A. W. Giddings.

Shaw placed Anoka’s first commercial advertisement in the St. Anthony Express on June 17, 1854 which read, EDWARD P SHAW, DEALER IN Groceries, Provisions, Hardware, Ready-made Clothing, Dry Goods, Boots and Shoes, etc. etc. Anoka, Min. Ter. Would respectfully inform the residents of Benton and the upper part of Ramsey and Hennepin counties, of such GOODS AND WARES as are generally kept in a country store, and that he will sell the same as cheap as can be sold in St. Paul or St. Anthony, cost of transportation added only on the heavier Goods, as he wishes to build up a trade at this point, and shall therefore try and please all who may give him a call.”

Shaw did business with locals, Red River Trail migrants and American Indians passing through the area.

In March 1857, the Shaw family sold the property to young millwright Robert G. Shuler.

Shuler expanded the building to accommodate the Anoka County District Court on the second floor where it functioned until 1865.

Several notorious cases were tried and the first Union volunteers were received in this room. Later it became a public hall.

In January 1858 Shuler mortgaged the property to a Dubuque, Iowa, lender.

In December 1858 he sold it to his younger brother, Benjamin P. Shuler, also a millwright.

But they lost the property. In November 1862 the U.S. Circuit Court in Mankato ordered foreclosure and sale to satisfy the mortgage and taxes.

By his highest bid, St. Paul attorney John M. Gilman became the new owner in March 1863.

But the Shuler name stuck perhaps because of the prominence of the district court under their expansion.

In September 1868 Gilman sold to Jared Benson, an Anoka farmer, politician and prolific real estate investor.

On Sept. 7, 1869, the Anoka County Press reported that “Hon. Jared Benson is fixing up the Shuler building. The lower story is to be used for a school room, as the new School House is already insufficient to contain the increasing number of pupils.  The upper story has been leased by the Anoka Lodge I.O.G.T. for a hall.  It will be fitted up suitably for the purpose.”

I.O.G.T. meant the Independent Order of Good Templars, a temperance society.

In 1881 one of Benson’s tenants was the Benjamin Haley Paint Shop. An 1885 report called it “the old red building on the west side.” Maybe Haley painted it for his rent.

While the 1885 state census listed immigrant boarders residing here, a fire insurance map of the same year identified it as a vacant tenement.

In July 1889, Benson sold to Anoka druggist, businessman and real estate investor Heman L. Ticknor.  Ironically, years earlier, he had married the widow of Aaron Greenwald, the first Union volunteer in this building.

It appears from this time forward this building was a side by side duplex;  a photo shows two separate entrances.

Twenty-one years later the Ticknor estate sold it to the adjacent First Baptist Church.

An April 27, 1910 Anoka County Union article reported, “About the best piece of news going this week, is the fact the Baptist society have closed negotiations for the purchase of the old Shuler building…. The old structure has been an eye sore for years and a menace for fire to surrounding property…  This will … be a big step towards civic improvement.”

The Baptists demolished the structure and later constructed a tabernacle here adjacent to their church.

So this site has redeveloped three times – the Baptist Tabernacle, a gas/convenience store and now Caribou.

But the Shuler Building housed history – the first general store, doctor’s office, public meeting hall and courthouse in Anoka County and the first Union volunteers in the nation.

So while you are sitting and sipping that latte lite in Caribou, consider what happened here and what firsts this place might still hold for you.

Bob Kirchner is a local historian, seminary student and recently retired as the city of Anoka’s community development director.

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