Sexworld, Anthony Kelly and Company, 125-129 Washington Avenue North, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Anthony Kelly and Company

The Building Before
The Building Now
Address: 129 Washington Avenue N
Neighborhood/s: North Loop, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Warehouse District, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hennepin County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1877
Primary Style: Italianate
Additions: Additional brick and stone warehouse
Major Alterations: Some/mostly intact
Historic Function: Business
Historic Function: Wholesale
Other Historic Function: Wholesale
Current Function: Other
Current Function: Adult Entertainment
Other Current Function: Adult Entertainment
Builder: Anthony Kelly & Co
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Stone
First Owner: Anthony Kelly
Part of the Site: Minneapolis North Loop

North Loop, Warehouse District Minneapolis Hennepin County

Sexworld, Anthony Kelly and Company, 125-129 Washington Avenue North, Minneapolis, Minnesota
(44.983753° N, 93.271071° WLatitude: 44°59′1.511″N
Longitude: 93°16′15.856″W
National Register of Historic Places Information
Reference Number: 110
Level of significance: Local
Primary Style: Italianate
Year/s of Major Alterations: 1943, 1957,1965, 1993
Year/s of Additions: 1892

The Anthony Kelly and Co. building, currently known as 'Sexworld,' built in 1877. The building is located on the south skirt of Minneapolis's Historic Warehouse District. The neighborhood is known as North Loop. The building served two types of industries who had their own unique impact on the cityscape of Minneapolis. Anthony Kelly & Co. was one of the biggest wholesale companies in the city. It accommodated the expansion of Kelly & Co. from groceries retail to wholesale. Since 1993, the building has housed 'Sexworld,' the renowned Adults Entertainment destination in Minnesota. National Registration of Historic Places (NRHP) designated the building in 1989. The building designates three elements of NRHP’s local significance.


Memories and stories

Urban Context

The Minneapolis City Council designated the North Loop Warehouse District in 1978 as a local designation stemming from the area’s contribution on the city’s architectural and commercial significance. The Warehouse District supported the industrial components of the city, and how such support was and is important to the city’s industrial growth. The Warehouse District’s 1989 national designation on the NRHP is attributed to the area’s significance in architecture and commerce associated with the wholesaling and implementing industries in Minneapolis. The historic district is encompassed in a 30 blocks area. As the boundaries of Warehouse District were drawn, the District found itself neighboring the St. Anthony Falls Historic District, another local and national historic district. The Warehouse District includes a total of 245 units, a mix of buildings, sites, and structures. The earliest forms of architecture in the Warehouse Districtdate back to the 1880s. By and large, buildings were three stories high with a storefront on the first floor and hotels or semi-manufacturing spaces on the upper levels. During later years, buildings were being erected higher, ranging from five to seven stories. The authenticity of the Warehouse District has been highly maintained. Its four steel bridges and most of the paved streets are still functioning. The architectural styles and appearances of the buildings are still representative of their birth, with an essence of the early 20th century.

The Warehouse Action Plan (2000)

After the demolishing of five historical units in the district for the construction of The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, the NRHP expressed their displeasure. Because of the situation, the Warehouse Action Plan was adopted. The goal was to "Preserve the distinctive character of the Plan Area, through rehabilitation of buildings, conservation of historic streetscape features, and compatible design for new construction."

Most preserving action took place on buildings within the area. The plan expanded on the values of other elements vital to the buildings and the District’s character. Railroads, pathways, etc. where considered as important, especially when they provide evidence of jobbing activities in the District. Also, the neighborhood is an enclave that partook in the glorious industrial history of Minneapolis.

Anthony Kelly

In 1858 Anthony Kelly established a retail grocery business in Minneapolis. Kelly had moved from Ireland to the U.S. at the age of 15 with his parents searching for a better way of life. Anthony partnered with his brother P. H. Kelly in the grocery business. The business was located on the street level of a building and city records shows additional occupants operatingin the buidling. The Kelly brothers’ partnership didn’t last long and other partners joined Anthony Kelly in business. Since then, the city of Minneapolis witnessed the establishment of its second, yet most important wholesale trade business in 1868

The Building

The Anthony Kelly & Co. building was erected in 1877. The Anthony Kelly & Co. started to flourish from retail to wholesale. The business was located at the corner of Washington Avenue and Helen Street (known now as 2nd Ave North). The positive impact on trade and the enlarged scale of business brought a need for new accommodating venues. Anthony Kelly & Co. became a landmark of the jobbing trade in Minneapolis. The building served not only as a wholesale trade but also as the trade center of the company’s own spice line and other Anthony Kelly & Co. products. The building was three stories high with stone façade. This Italianate style building has represented the most important jobber figures of the city. In 1989 the NRHP designated the whole neighborhood andthe Anthony Kelly & Co. building was a part of the designation. The building’s period of significance is from 1865 to 1930. The historical value of the building was highlighted in three criterions of local significance:

  1. The property is associated with significant events or with periods that exemplify broad patterns of cultural, political, economic or social history. The building itself as mentioned participated in important shifts within the neighborhood, and the city in whole. It is associated with iconic practice of commerce and more so became an icon to represent Jobbing trade and Adult entertainment.
  2. The property embodies the distinctive characteristics of an architectural or engineering type or style, or method of construction. The structure files under a certain architectural style. A style associated as a signifier of its time. The architectural style represents the era of industrial Minneapolis.
  3. The property exemplifies works of master builders, engineers, designers, artists, craftsmen or architects. The Kelly & Co building's architect was not vigilant in the archival records.

In 1957 an alteration occurred to the building’s front façade. The third floor front windows’ glass was replaced with glass bricks. Such alteration made the building a standout among its siblings in the neighborhood. The building is the only building with glass brick windows. Such change may have occurred for many reasons of which the historical records fail to provide any insight as to why. Glass bricks on buildings at the time were a sign of sophistication. Glass bricks were invented in 1930s and were a famous trend on the east coast. As any new invention time is a factor in its saturation. The glass bricks in the following years became more common as a newer trend in constructions. Oddly, glass bricks were mostly used for basement windows, yet in The Kelly & Co building they showed up in a totally different setup. The new invention offers 80 percent daylight and virtually complete privacy. Adding the glass bricks to third floor windows were could have been done either for privacy or/and street’s views were not desired. This would mean the space was used for mostly indoor activity or storage, where outdoor gaze engagement wasn’t preferred. Ironically, such alteration served as a benefit the later occupant of the building. The Warehouse District’s businesses decline the after the great depression (1930s) affected major commercial practices in the area. Anthony Kelly & Co. building became vacant somewhere between the 1960s (there are no evidence in city recorders of when the vacancy occurred) to 1993. The building, as many other buildings in the District, suffered decay for a long period of time, and the Warehouse District was in a brutal decline. In 1993 another form of habitation arisen. BSL Inc. purchased the building, where it was valued at $100 (just the building excluding the land value). The company established an adult entertainment venture known as Sexworld. The building remained true to its authentic identity (post glass block installation). Minor alterations were done for decorative purposes, yet the structure and original building characters remained intact. Sexworld became a pioneer in reviving the social aspect of the neighborhood. Adult entertainment businesses usually established in isolated parts of cities. And that is where Sexworld found itself, in a remote (at the time) and almost vacant warehouse district. The activity brought social attention to the area; therefore, society’s attention grew bigger and bigger toward the warehouse district. Sexworld played an important role in reactivating the neighborhood.


2007 Academy Award Winner Diablo Cody (screenwriter for the movie Juno) worked at the Dollhouse (a peep show in Sexworld) before her of Hollywood fame. The building was mentioned in her published diary ‘Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper’

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