Old Klearflax warehouse is a-comin’ down

Klearflax 2015

As previously reported on PDD, Walker Display has moved its operations out of West Duluth, and its former location on Grand Avenue is being demolished to make way for a Kwik Trip convenience store. The demolition process has revealed the former exterior of the building’s west side — a reminder that it once served as a warehouse for Klearflax Linen Rugs Co.

Klearflax Rugs

Julius Howland Barnes founded Western Linen Company in 1909. Initially it produced rugs in the traditional manner, but later developed methods to manufacture more durable rugs by using linen yarns from flax straw.

The company was perhaps best known for the rug it produced for the main entry of New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which reportedly showed little wear after an estimated 10 million people had walked across it.

Another rug was made in 1939 for the Finnish capital at Helsinki. By this time the company was known as Klearflax and employed 300 people.

From House & Garden magazine, March 1922

From House & Garden magazine, March 1922

Barnes sold the company to Romos Enterprises of Ohio in April of 1953. He died in Duluth’s Holland Hotel in 1959.

The Klearflax factory was at 6320 Grand Ave., two blocks east of the warehouse. It was imploded in 1987.

Klearflax Linen Rug Company

Klearflax Factory

13 Comments

Rae

about 8 years ago

Mildly off topic: Are there plans to connect Raleigh Street -- or other streets in the area -- to I-35?

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

As far as I know, there are not. The subject comes up from time to time at various public meetings. There is a concern by some members of the West Duluth business community that I-35 kind of pushes visitors into the center of town instead of guiding them to attractions on the western end. Although the concern is valid, the mess of trying to create a new route is probably too impractical. Making changes to existing exits is more likely, but I'm mostly speculating.

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

rodent

Addendum: This is the woodchuck who was hanging out on the other side of Grand Avenue, munching away on grass, clovers or whatever. Maybe he should be the new Kwik Trip mascot.

Rae

about 8 years ago

Woodchuck!

I appreciate your speculation. I had heard a rumor that there were plans to connect Grand to I-35 and the location of the Raleigh Street Kwik Trip was selected partially due to this proposed connection. After I looked at a map and saw the Old Thompson Hill Road I wondered about the feasibility of it.

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

Remains of the Day

Not bad for one day's demolition work. That big ol' brick building has been reduced to a single wall.

wreckage

TimK

about 8 years ago

How much ground
Could a groundhog hog
If a groundhog 
Could hog ground?

Kodiak

about 8 years ago

Linen from flax? Brilliant application. Sounds innovative even today to someone like me.  

I used to retail in Scandinavian Design and became familiar with a Finnish textile manufacturer and design company called Woodnotes. It was founded by a woman, Ritva Puotila and her son Mikko in 1987 who adapted paper yarn to make blinds, carpets and household accessories inspired by the rugged landscape of Finland and utilizing its most abundant raw material: timber and its by-products.  

In my ignorance, I thought Woodnotes had paved the way in this technology but it seems Klearflax was decades ahead of them. I wonder if the Puotilas were inspired by the Klearflax rug in the capital building in Helsinki.

GTR

about 8 years ago

So what did a Klearflax rug feel like? I can't picture the texture. And there weren't any ancient ones lining the floor or walls of the warehouse, were there? That demo photo almost looks like it includes a rug-like thing. Could also be roofing materials. Just curious. I was once excited to find an old Congoleum rug(real old linoleum that they printed to look like an oriental carpet) in an old barn.

GTR

about 8 years ago

Also, Kodiak, linen has always been made from flax; not really an innovation. I think the rug application was, perhaps, though. 

What is Linen?

Kodiak

about 8 years ago

GTR - Thanks for enlightening me. I should've know that. Ignorance x 2.

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

Klearflax Plant Duluth

Tony Dierckins at Zenith City Online sent me this image of the Klearflax plant, courtesy of the Duluth Public Library. Zenith City has a page outlining Duluth’s Miscellaneous Manufacturers that includes a little more history on Klearflax.

Paul Lundgren

about 7 years ago

This ad in The Saturday Evening Post indicates the president of Barnes-Ames Company of New York had his office carpeted with Klearflax.

Klearflax Barnes - Ames

Rob Barros

about 4 years ago

Does anyone have an original sample of the Klearflax Linen Rug? I would appreciate seeing/examining it. If anyone has a sample available to see, that of course would be appreciated as well. This is for historic research only. Thank you robbarros(at)icloud(dot)com.

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