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Your Link to the Past

Your Link to the Past

T. S. Martin Realty Company

T. S. Martin and the Martin family were leading forces in the development of commerce and real estate in Sioux City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Along with starting one of the city’s most successful department stores, the T. S. Martin Company invested in real estate and developing downtown Sioux City into a major business district.

20171220 163753The company’s first development project was a building at 515-517 Fourth Street. The company constructed the building in 1885 and dubbed it the “Martin Block”. They leased it out to clothing retailers while their own dry goods store operated at 323-325 Fourth Street. The Martin Block did well for the company until a fire struck in the building in December 1888. The incident helped to spur the city government to establish a municipal fire department, rather than relying on private hose companies. The company remodeled the Martin Block and moved the department store there in 1894.

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T. S. Martin Company’s real estate ventures were spearheaded by Thomas Martin’s brothers, Louis B. and especially James P. Martin. Together, the two brothers took up the cause of developing Sioux City. They were one of the many financiers of the Iowa Building, a major downtown office building located at Fifth and Pierce Street. Designed by E. W. Loft in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, it was built in 1889 and at one time was home to the Iowa State Savings Bank as well as many real estate and law offices. It was razed in 1936.


SC04.HT.Martin.04The brothers also financed the building of the Martin Hotel at Fourth and Pierce Street. The building was designed by a Chicago architecture firm and is one of Sioux City’s finest examples of Sullivanesque/Chicago School architecture. When it opened in 1913 the six-story hotel was proclaimed as Sioux City’s largest, finest, and most modern hotel. A 7th floor was added in 1918, expanding the hotel to 350 rooms. In its heyday, the hotel included numerous high-class amenities such as a restaurant, a spacious ballroom, and many ground-level shops. The hotel was converted into apartments in 1983, but the ballroom remains intact and can still be rented out for private events.

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In 1915 James P. Martin built the Frances Building at Fifth and Pierce Street. It was named in honor of James’s daughter, Frances. Like the Martin Hotel, it was designed in the Sullivanesque/Chicago School style, and built at an estimated $500,000. When it was completed it was hailed by the news and media as one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, possibly in the state. After James P. Martin left the city in 1918, the Frances Building had several other owners, including Frank Pelletier of the Pelletier Department Store, and Arthur Sanford, whose Frances Building Co. built the Orpheum Theatre next door.

After James and Louis left Sioux City, their real estate and development work fell into the hands of their nephews. The sons of T. S. Martin – J. Earle, Jules T., and Howard – purchased and remodeled the USA Theater next to their new department store. They intended to call it the Martin Estate Theater, but it opened in 1918 as the Orpheum Vaudeville, part of the Orpheum circuit. It was renamed the Capitol Theater in 1928 and featured some of Sioux City’s first “talkie” motion pictures. It closed in 1970.

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The T. S. Martin Company continued to invest and develop real estate in Sioux City under the name of its subsidiary, the T. S. Martin Realty Company. The company owned land in downtown and the riverfront, and made financial contributions to the erection and management of many prominent Sioux City buildings, including the War Eagle Building, the Badgerow Building, the Orpheum Theatre, and the Warrior Hotel. 

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