Elizabeth C. Quinlan: Woman Pioneer in the World of Business

In recognition of Women’s History Month, we would like to recognize the contributions of Elizabeth C. Quinlan. Quinlan was the co-founder of the Young-Quinlan Company, a women’s ready-to wear shop located at 513 Nicollet Avenue. The shop, opened in 1894, was the first of its kind west of the Mississippi River. The success of her store was aided by her innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, leading her to become a leader in the apparel industry. Many considered her a pioneering women in the world of business dominated by men.Despite the opportunities to work in fashion meccas like New York City, Quinlan’s love of Minneapolis kept her here, and despite working for less pay she was quoted as saying “the best day’s work [she] ever did.” In 1926, following increasing success, she moved her shop to 901 Nicollet Avenue.  By this time her business was noted as the largest women’s specialty shop in the country. After years of hard work, Quinlan retired in 1945 and passed away in 1947. Her legacy lives on in the Elizabeth C. Quinlan Foundation.

Her 1925 Renaissance Revival house, located at 1711 Emerson Avenue South in the Lowry Hill neighborhood, serves as a symbol of her success and represents “her taste for elegance and high-fashion.”  Architect Frederick Lee Ackerman, commissioned by Quinlan, designed the home which is noted as “an excellent example of the Eclectic movement of the 1920s and of Ackerman’s high-end residential work.” The house has strong Italian and Tuscan influences.  It was designed in an L-shape plan with three stories. It has stucco walls, a terra cotta tile hipped roof, stone window trim and details such as quoins, embellishments, and wrought iron patterns. The patio, located on the east elevation, is accessed from the house through French doors opening onto a balcony with a winding staircase. Original decorative brick, tile, and pebble-inlay floor designs are located within the patio space. A blue-tile fountain and reflecting pool with bronze elephant statue is the centerpiece of the outdoor space. The Quinlan House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012 at the local level under Criterion C in the area of Architecture. To read more on the historic designation, see the National Register nomination (source of article quotes) on the National Park Service website.

Author: Stephanie Rouse