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Webb Brothers Department Store

By | Last Modified: May 5, 2017
Zimmerman's Furniture / Webb Brothers Building
Zimmerman’s Furniture / Webb Brothers Building

Webb Brothers was an early furniture, dry goods, and department store located in downtown Bismarck for over sixty years. It also housed Bismarck’s first funeral parlor.

Highly successful, Webb Brothers regularly witnessed annual sales nearing half a million dollars (not adjusted for inflation).

History

The Webb brothers, William and Philip, came to Bismarck in 1884 from New Jersey and opened a furniture store at 514 Main Avenue. Soon after, Webb Brothers relocated to 223 Main Avenue. The Webbs eventually expanded their merchandise selection to include dry goods and carpet.

Market Position

For five years, Webb Borthers was the only dry goods store in Bismarck; and, the only furniture store between Jamestown, North Dakota and Glendive, Montana for twelve years. When competitor A.W. Lucas & Company opened in 1899, Webb Brothers eagerly welcomed the competition, even providing financial assistance to their new competitor. The Webbs believed that the increased competition would improve Bismarck’s appeal as a shopping destination. The strategy proved successfully, with sales increasing after the opening of A.W. Lucas.

New Buidling

Following the aftermath of the famous August 1898 Fire, a replacement building was constructed at the intersection of Third Street & Main Avenue, where the store remained until closing in December 1945.

Later History

Philip retired in 1921, but William continued to operate the business. In 1928, Webb Brothers opened Bismarck’s first funeral home. It was at this time that the store exited the dry goods business and, instead, expanded their furniture selection. 1928 also saw a change in ownership to William’s sons, Philip and Robert.

Webb Brothers closed in December 1945.

Other Interests

In addition to their retail store, the Webbs were active in real estate, owning and developing several local buildings beyond their retail store.

William Webb served one term as Bismarck mayor. He also served on the city council and as chairman and president of several organizations, including the board of county commissioners.

Webb Brothers Building

The Webb Brothers Block was completed in 1900 to replace their former store, which was destroyed in the 1898 Fire.

In addition to the namesake store and funeral parlor, the second floor of the Webb Brothers Block housed the Federal District Courtrooms until the completion of the first Federal Building in 1913. The building also temporarily housed state government offices following the original Capitol’s destruction in 1930.

Following Webb Brothers, the building underwent major renovation to house Sears, who remained at the site until relocating to Gateway Mall in 1979. Conlin’s Furniture occupied the building until 2004 when it, too, relocated to Gateway Mall. During’s Conlin’s occupancy, the white facade added by Sears was removed, restoring the building’s original appearance.

Today, the building is home to Zimmerman’s Furniture.

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