Rank Dress Shop

This one-story frame commercial building, built around 1897, was originally the dressmaking shop and living quarters of Mrs. Francis Rank, one of several seamstresses in Manitowoc at the turn of the century. From 1908 to 1964, it housed the Phalen Plumbing Company and later, became the Worthington Realty and Income Tax Service office until the death of owner Robert Worthington in 1992.

The building, formally located in the Eighth Street Historic District in downtown Manitowoc, was slated to be demolished to create a parking lot. To prevent it from being destroyed, the building was donated by the Capitol Civic Centre. It was moved to Pinecrest Historical Village following the approval of the City of Manitowoc Community Development Authority. Two rear storage additions were removed prior to moving the building from its downtown location at 713 Franklin Street on April 17, 1994. 

The building features a distinctive Boomtown façade with a row of dentils at the cornice, large plate glass store front windows, recessed doorway, gabled roof and brick chimney. Simple vernacular structures with Boomtown facades, also called false fronts since they made buildings appear larger than they actually were, were once common in Manitowoc County towns and villages. 

Built about 1897 at 713 Franklin Street in Manitowc, the property soon become known as the Rank Dressmaker Shop.  The City Directory in 1897 lists Francis Rank—dressmaker.

From 1906 to 1964 the Phalen Plumbing Company occupied the building, adding a large storage section to the back.  Worthington Realty and Income operated out of the structure until 1992.  It then became the property of the Capitol Civic Center, and was moved to Pinecrest Historical Village on April 17, 1994.

Francis’ husband Martin was first listed in the City/County Directory in 1884, living at the corner of South Main and Columbus Streets in Manitowoc.  His occupation was a cooper.  In 1894 Martin was living at 713 Franklin Street, Manitowoc, and listed as a laborer. 

The following is an exert from "History of Manitowoc County Wisconsin" by Dr. L. Falge, 1911-1912, v.2, p.103:

Martin Rank, who since 1900 has lived retired at No. 1118 South Seventh street, was formerly engaged in railroad contracting work. He was born in Bohemia, on November 11, 1846, a son of Joseph and Anna Rank, both of whom passed away in that country.

The father is buried at Schwechat, near Vienna, and the mother at Neuern. Martin Rank received his education in Bohemia and later served in the Austrian army from which he was honorably discharged as corporal. In 1882 he came to America, making his way direct to Manitowoc where he was employed for a few years in a glue factory.

He then took up work on the railroad, being employed for nine years with a steam shovel gang. Subsequently he became assistant surveyor for the city of Manitowoc and continued in that position for several years. He also was employed in various other capacities and in 1900 retired.

In Vienna, Austria, in 1877, Mr. Rank was married to Miss Frances Koshina and to this union have been born five children: Henry, a watch maker; Robert, a journeyman for a diamond firm; Frank, engaged in the drug business; George, who is yet acquiring his education; and Grete, a high-school graduate.

Mr. Rank and his family were members of St. Boniface Catholic church, well known and highly honored there. Mr. Rank enjoyed a comfortable competence which he by honest labor and careful business management had laid aside for his declining years.

Research shows the couple had 2 children that passed away: Alma, age 7, died June 5, 1898 and Carl, age 2, died July 15, 1898. 

The following is taken from the Manitowoc Herald News, April 27, 1923 P. 1:


Death claimed another of the pioneer residents of Manitowoc Thursday night when Mrs. Martin Rank, a resident of the city for forty-five years, passed away at the hospital after a brief illness, caused by a general breakdown. Mrs. Rank’s funeral will be held at St. Boniface church tomorrow morning at 9, with burial at Cavalry. Mrs. Rank was born in Austria in 1854, being 69 at the time of her death. For more than forty-five years she has made her home in this city, the family residing at 1008 Hamilton street for many years. Mrs. Rank was active in social life of the city in former years and was widely known and esteemed by a large circle of friends. Besides her husband Mrs. Rank is survived by three sons, Henry W., Robert A., and George M., all prominent in business circles at Milwaukee and one daughter Miss Gretchen who also makes her home in that city.

Francis’ talents were similar to many women of the time—skilled with a needle and thread.  Being close to Scheutte Brothers Department Store, she probably got her supplies as needed, keeping her inventory at a minimum. The large cutting table inside the shop came from Schuette Store’s fabric department.  The thread and button case also served as a desk storing the customer's measurements.  The full length mirror also had its home at Schuette Department Store before being donated to the Society.  The secretary in the back parlor room is from the Guido Rahr estate. 

In 1993, Dennis and Rogene Moore raised over $3,000 with rummage sales to move the shop from its location on Franklin Street to the Village.  The Dressmakers Shop was officially opened on Mother’s Day, May 10, 1998.