Bjoraker Building

Hayes Scriven

The limestone Bjoraker Building was built before 1870. It most likely replaced another first-generation wooden commercial building built before the Civil War. Unfortunately, not much is known about the building’s early history.

A.J. Bjoraker operated a general store in the building until 1884. Thomas Oleson operated a “Shoes and Gents Furnishings” store in the building after that, and a series of salons operated in the basement of the building until 1912, when it served as the offices and warehouse of the Northfield Seed Company.

The Bierman family purchased the building in 1934. A. W. Bierman had been doing business in Northfield since 1896; he began with a little novelty shop on Bridge Square and shifted in 1906 to selling furniture.

Bierman also had an embalming license and likely operated an undertaking parlor. After the family purchased the Bjoraker Building, they operated the funeral business out of the back of the furniture store. In 1941, an addition at the rear of the store served the expanding funeral business.

Bierman’s Furniture is the oldest family-operated business in Northfield and one of the oldest in the state. The building’s exterior has been altered little over the years. By the 1880s, the building, like many other stores in town, had a large cloth awning that extended over the sidewalk. That was replaced by a metal awning in the 1950s. A simple tin cornice was added along the way, too.

Mindful of their history, the Biermans removed the metal awning in 2005 and restored the front of the building to its simple and distinctive nineteenth-century appearance. The storefront’s large windows show off the wares inside and let in light. These windows are surrounded by large, carefully cut limestone columns that hold up the second floor. Other commercial buildings built later of brick, such as the Scofield Building, Central Block, and Ebel Block, have cast iron columns on the storefront.