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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Duluth Architecture

Well, I'm out of stuff to talk about from our last trip together, now I've got to finish up about my solo trip to Superior before our trip to the U.P. next week. While in Superior I snuck across the river into Minnesota to check out the architecture in Duluth.  That's twice I've been to Minnesota this summer!

The old Duluth National Bank on Superior Street was cool, I went inside and got an eyeful of their old vault, but I really liked the burglar alarm on the exterior.  Superior Street had other buildings too, it was a nice stroll.

But 2nd Street is where all the biggies were located.  Parking was challenging on this one way street near the courthouse, and of course the government buildings were closed.  Maybe if I'm ever around on a weekday I'll get a look at the interiors.

Old  Jail

St. Louis County Courthouse

Carnegie library
When Duluth began to outgrow its first library, it used a $25,000 donation from Andrew Carnegie to help build a Neo-Classical brick sandstone structure that ultimately cost $65,000. Built in 1902, the building includes a central dome and once held two Tiffany windows depicting the area’s history (the windows are now on display at the Union Depot). An addition was built on the rear of the building in 1927. When a new library was built in 1980, the Carnegie building was converted to office space and is still in use today.   Next time I'm in the area I'll have to go to Union Depot!

Old Central High School and its 230-foot clock tower were a big surprise. The Romanesque brownstone building is modeled after the Allegheny Courthouse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The building ceased operating as a school in 1971 and is now home to the Duluth School District’s administrative offices. It was featured in the 1980s movie Iron Will, filmed in Duluth. In his description of Old Central’s stone gargoyles, architectural historian James Allen Scott wrote that “about the cavernous entrance in the tower angelic cherubs lovingly smile while overhead grotesque animal figures leer their prurient intents.” Those figures were carved by Duluth’s master stone artisan, Norwegian immigrant O. George Thrana. The building’s brownstone came from Fond du Lac’s Krause Quarry and other quarries along the Wisconsin south shore. A tradition at Old Central held for seniors to climb the clock tower and sign their names on its walls.

Duluth Masonic Center

And last but not least Engine House #1, the ironically named third firehouse in Duluth. The first, a wooden building near Minnesota Point, burned to the ground while responding to its first fire call: the steam engine set the firehouse ablaze. The second, run by volunteers, remains at 22 East 2nd Street, but most of its decorative features are gone. Built in 1889, the stone and brick Engine House #1 was once crowned with an impressive bell tower; the tower was removed in 1910 and the firehouse closed in 1918.  When I walked past it looked like it might have been converted into apartments. 

That's all I have for Duluth, I just drove around a bit with my camera, had a turkey burger and picked up some groceries.  I'll take a closer look next time I'm in the area.


  1. Imposing architecture, especially the brownstone building. Everything seems so quiet around them.

    If not for the label, the Burglar's Alarm might be mistaken for an air conditioner.

  2. We have the same taste in architecture (you just manage to post your photos and I don't!)

  3. Wow some great old buildings there and I liked that old bugler alarm