Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Continental Clothing House

The original Continental Clothing House building, at Washington and Harvard streets.

The Continental Clothing House, or Freeland, Loomis and Company, was founded in 1873. The store was preceded by the C.W. Freeland, Beard and Company, located at 152 Devonshire street, as revealed by the 1865 Boston Directory. At the same time, Silas Loomis was having success in business in in the Midwest. After the Chicago Fire of 1871, Loomis came to Boston and joined the firm Freeland, Loomis and Company. The first location of the new store was 744-756 Washington street. This was at the corner of Harvard street, which was one block south of Kneeland street. The contemporaneous print above boasts "The Largest Retail Clothing House in New England."

"King's Handbook of Boston said: "The first place of business in this country to make use of the electric light was the Continental Clothing House, at the south-west corner of Washington and Harvard Streets ; the proprietors, Freeland, Loomis, & Co., successfully making the experiment Nov. 14, 1878. In 1881 the light was introduced in illuminating Scollay Square and a section of Court Street at night; and it was also employed in a number of hotels, shops, and large establishments. Its general introduction in the street-lighting of the city has since been carried forward. "

Before I go on to the second location of the Continental Clothing House in Boston, this might be the appropriate place to insert mention of the Omaha branch store. Presumably based on Silas Loomis' experience in the West, the Omaha Illustrated of 1888 reported: "The proprietors of the establishment have fixed upon Omaha as the most important point for the western distributing branch of their business, and will eventually transfer a large portion of their manufacturing to this city, where, in the near future, it is proposed to enter into competition with the large western wholesale markets of Chicago and St. Louis in supplying the demand of the great West and Northwest, which must look to Omaha for its supplies of every description."

Evidently, Freeland and Loomis were thinking big. The Omaha Illustrated article also informs us that the stock for the store would be manufactured in Boston by between by "between five and six hundred hands," at the home facility. That's interesting. I take from that reference that the stock sold at the Boston store had been made on the premises as well.

The new building, at the corner of Boylston and Washington streets.

From an advertisement, Boston Globe, December 7, 1923.

Back to Boston. In 1888, the store moved up Washington street to the corner of Boylston street, on the site of the old Boylston Market (more on that building in a future entry).

Advertisement from The Tech, newspaper of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, December 10, 1896.

Another advertisement from The Tech, the newspaper of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, March 30, 1917. Stylish, aren't they?

Promotional pin from the Continental Clothing House.

The trade card for the Continental Clothing House shows, on opposite sides (above and below) the difference between your average suitor and the well dressed man.

On September 7, 1923, a Boston Globe article announced that the Continental Clothing House, under the name Freeland Loomis Company, had been bought by William Filene's Sons Company. Both the main Boylston street store and a newer store at Washington and Franklin streets were included in the sale. So now we know what happened to this major Boston retail institution. At least we know what happened to the name. I still don't know what Filene's did with the Boylston street location, and how long it remained as a retail establishment.


  1. Hello!

    I found your blog while researching information about a historical fiction adventure novel based in Boston in 1886. This is the second book in a trilogy. The main character's family has a family general store from at least 1850 to at least 1886. The main character is born in Boston in 1849 and leaves there as a young man in his early twenties to work in another state. In 1886 he returns. The family store is still in existence, but some family members have passed away.

    I was recommended that the North End of Boston would be an appropriate place for this family store to be, and then the family members could live in the area and walk around. They would also like a Catholic church to be nearby.

    If this is a good neighborhood, what streets might the store be located on, and could the store have resident living above it?

    Where might I find an accurate downloadable map of that area at that time?

    Any assistance is greatly appreciated!

    Thank you!

    Jackie Phillips

    1. You are welcome and encouraged to contact me directly at my email address of: Thanks!

  2. Dear Sir, I came across a naval shipmen's cap, Same style used in the civil war and on through WWI, its says inside in a black stamped old English writing, The Continental clothing house, no address, their is a size paper '6 1/8' quill pen date looks like 1850, can not be say I am 100% correct on the date, it is a gray wool cloth, with a whitish cotton liner, maybe Muslim, and a cotton type twisted chin strap hand sewed in, a black rim cloth around the outside of the head rim, it also has the emblem stitched in I guess what would be the front in red, The only way I can explain the emblem embroidered on the right is kike the ones worn in New Orleans, like the one the boy scouts have used for the last 100 years or so, I just can't recall the name of the emblem, Its slipping my mind, I read the H.O. C. started in England before 1865, the ones I've seen have the Boston address on them, no address on this cap, If you know the emblem on the New Orleans saints football helmet is the exact emblem on the naval cap, at has a rim stiffener made od reed around the inside of the hat keeping it round in shape if anyone can help me date this naval cap I'd greatly appreciate it, thank you, SemperFi, SgtMajR.A.SF-5,MacSog.USMC,Ret,Disabled thank you, Rob email

  3. bought an antique sword, ancient order of hibernians, on blade it says continental clothing house boston. any info would be helpful.