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December 13, 2007

Greysolon Plaza: A look back at its rich history in Duluth

DCN Reporter

Before it became the Greysolon Plaza, it was a hotel. The Hotel Duluth.

When the Hotel Duluth was first built in 1925, it was the tallest building in the Northwest. On May 21, 1925, the Duluth Herald dedicated an entire section to the grand opening of the Hotel Duluth. The 14 story building had 500 hotel rooms.

The Hotel Duluth was the seventh in a chain of hotels built by President Walter Schroeder, the other six hotels were built all around Wisconsin.

The Hotel Duluth cost $2.4 million to build, but drew in celebrities to Duluth including Henry Fonda, Harry Jones, Charles Boyer, Crown Prince Olav of Norway, and most famous, President John F. Kennedy, just two months before he was assassinated.

When President Kennedy was in Duluth during a stop on his campaign trail, the entire 14th floor was closed off.

Oscar Sederski, who was a cook at the Hotel Duluth and who currently lives in the Greysolon Plaza apartments, remembers vividly President Kennedy’s stay at the Hotel Duluth and even cooked a “baby pink? steak for him.

“The president said he wants them (steak) baby pink and that stuck with me, baby pink,? said Sederski. “I was very honored that I could cook Kennedy’s steak. I think there was a party up there (14th floor), not only him, but maybe twelve people or so. To cook his steak baby pink; I’ll never forget that cause I’d never heard that before.?

In 1955, the Hotel Duluth opened the “Black Bear Lounge" which was named after an infamous incident in 1929, after a bear broke in through a 15-foot-tall plate glass window, where the Chinese Garden is now located. According to a Web site on the Hotel Duluth, the bear followed a truck that had fresh fish all the way into town. Once the bear got to the Hotel Duluth, it smelled coffee and broke through the window, creating havoc in the lobby until the police came arrived. The bear was shot and killed somewhere around the lobby and Mezzanine area.

The Hotel Duluth closed in December 1979 and in 1980 was converted into apartments and was renamed the Greysolon Plaza. In 1993, the lobby was used to film portions of the movie Iron Will.

According to resident manager Miriam Burke, the Greysolon Plaza is now an apartment complex that has 150 one-bedroom apartments from the fourth floor to the fourteenth floor used primarily by senior citizens. The Moorish Room on the second floor and The Ballroom on the third floor are used primarily for parties, weddings and proms.

According to Burke, there are events every weekend and even some weekdays. With the Greysolon Plaza also home to about 150 senior citizens, you might think there would be conflicts with the parties and noise, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

“When they turn the amps up it can get pretty loud on the fourth floor, but we haven’t had complaints,? said Burke. “In fact the residents kind of get a kick out of coming down and sitting on the Mezzanine and watch the people come and go. It’s kind of a pleasant thing. They just have to learn how to like the young people’s music that’s all.?

Edith Lockwood, 96, has been living in the Greysolon Plaza apartments since the building was converted in 1980. When Lockwood received a letter asking if she’d like to live in the Greysolon apartments, she jumped at the opportunity.

“It’s handy, it’s beautiful, [it’s] got lovely, nice people. It’s a wonderful place to be living,? said Lockwood. “The Ballroom is gorgeous; you don’t find ballrooms like this anymore."

“I can remember when my husband was living, we used to go down here for special occasions,? said Lockwood. “Little did I ever dream I’d be living here, but I’m glad I am.?

Rich history in Hillside schools


Grant School was built in 1918 and has seen generations of Duluth children pass through its doors. Many of those who attended Grant as kids still live in the area. I had the opportunity to sit down with two individuals who went to Grant.

Kenneth Cusick, whom everyone calls Casey, is 49 and sent all of his three kids to Grant School.

Listen to Cusick's Story

Lilly Holdorsen, 90, started Grant School in 1923. She has three children, 11 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren. She spends her spare time painting.

Listen to Holdorson's Story

Lilly Holdorsen, 90, shares her memories of her schooling in Duluth (photo eric simon).

Once a school, Jefferson Square apartments has history

DCN reporter

The Jefferson Square apartment building has shaped a lot of lives over the last 100 years. Thousands of people walked the halls and stairways of the building as students for nearly a century.

The 2nd Street view of the historical Jefferson Square apartment building. (All photos courtesy of Northeast Minnesota Historical Center.)
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A view of the old Jefferson building.
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The building at 916 E 3rd Street had been a school in the hillside for nearly a hundred years before being renovated into an apartment complex in the 1980’s. It was first constructed in 1893 to be used as part of the Duluth village school system and had an original cost of over $100,000, according to a Duluth News Tribune article from Nov. 6, 1949, “From these Roots.?

In 1901, Jefferson School officially opened with an enrollment of 885 first through seventh graders, according to a Duluth News Tribune & Herald article from October 4, 1983 entitled “Then & Now.?

For the next 50 years the school was one of the largest elementary schools in the Duluth area. In 1952 the building received a $10,000 addition to accommodate increasing numbers of baby-boomer children.

By 1970 the school’s enrollment was down to under 350 students and a few years later the building would be void of children and teachers when the school was shut down in 1982 due to budget cuts and a restructuring of the Duluth school system.

Only a few of the building’s current residents remember the building as a school.

“I only ever knew this place as an apartment building,? Leah Schaefer said. “I’ve lived here for over a year and I just found out this used to be a school a few months ago.?

Just when it seemed the building would become a useless eyesore in the hillside, the building received a second chance. St. Luke’s hospital bought the building in 1983 with the plan of using it for a nursing school and a home care agency, according to the “Then & Now? article.

In May of 1985 the building received a Duluth Preservation Alliance Award for the work done to remodel and convert the 100-year old building to modern practical uses.

Currently, the building boasts large, open apartments with anywhere from one to four bedrooms. Most of the apartments have at least 10-foot ceilings and large living rooms.

Chris Johnson has lived at Jefferson Square with his girlfriend for over two years.

“I personally like the high ceilings,? said Johnson. “All the rooms are very open and inviting. It’s a great place to live and it gives my girlfriend a lot of space to decorate?

Many of the tenants are grateful that the city found a way to save and restore the old building rather than tear it down. Other old school buildings have been torn down in order to make room for new structures.

“This building has been here as long as I can remember,? said Duluth native Scott Guthrie. “There have been a lot of schools closed in this town and it’s good to see at least one of them still standing.?

The building is one of the oldest in the central hillside and if it can continue to offer itself for good uses, hopefully it can last another 100 years.

“There is a great deal of history in this part of town and not all of it is good history,? Guthrie said. “This building has nothing but good history in it.?

Grant Magnet Elementary students weave their history

A quilt created by Grant Magnet Elementary students represents the stories of students' families (Photo by Ali Draves).

DCN reporters

Grant Magnet Elementary, like other specialized schools, is known for its ability to integrate the fine arts into the curriculum. Teachers constantly prepare art programs that will correspond with their lesson plans.

However, not even the teachers could have imagined that a simple art project could turn into an irreplaceable cultural experience.

Kathy Levine, a fourth-grade teacher at Grant Magnet, has always tried to incorporate some aspect of the arts into her teaching.

Her fourth grade class started to analyze Woody Guthrie’s folksong, “This Land Is Your Land,? and something magical happened.

“The students began to wonder what land meant to them,? Levine said. “They started talking to their relatives about their genealogical history and how they ended up in Duluth.?

As the students began to make interesting discoveries about their lives, Levine extended the learning even further.

“I think big,? she said. “I wanted to find a way to depict their own heritage and still learn about the overall culture.?

Levine decided that a class loom would allow her students to represent their ancestry in a special way.

“Sue Brown, one of my student’s grandmothers, was known for her weaving skill,? Levine said. “She came in every day and helped us during free-time.?

Levine gave each student a 12-by-18-inch loom to make their own.

“Each color they chose had to represent something,? Levine said. “It had to be important to them.?

And although Levine had high hopes for the project, she didn’t expect to hear such inspiring stories.

Eleven-year-old Rosalie was one of them.

“I chose to use red, white and blue for Holland and the United States,? she said. “My family had to take a boat and move here because of the Nazis. They came here with only one suitcase and the clothes on their back.?

Rosalie wasn’t the only student who learned something amazing from their ancestors.

“My blood is mostly German,? said 11-year-old Andrew. “I chose red, black and yellow because my grandmother was born in Germany, but had to leave in the 1930’s because she was Jewish. She traveled alone.?

Blue and white were also used to represent the Finnish flag, he said.

“My other grandmother is Finnish and very proud of her heritage,? Andrew said. “She really likes to sauna because that's what Finnish people like.?

The looms proved to be educational and eye opening.

“I chose green because it stands for the cotton fields where my ancestors worked as slaves,? said 10-year-old Matthew. “The blue is the Lake Superior, the brown is for the trails my Dad and I run on and the purple is for my native land, Africa.?

Ten-year-old Brittany shared a similar experience.

“The yellow, black, white and red stands for the Fond Du Lac Reservation,? said Johnson. “The tee-pee on the weave stands for what my ancestors used to live in. We were the first ones here in America until the Europeans came over.?

She used several other colors, including green and blue for her parent’s favorite colors.

However, she learned more than most.

“The last line of green is where our tee-pee used to be on,? said Brittany. “It’s not there anymore.?

Levine said these stories were really touching.

“I can’t describe it, but we all learned so much about each other,? she said.

Recreational Specialist at Grant Community Center Chuck Campbell agrees.

“It was just one of those amazing things,? he said. “After some stories, there were a lot of tears.?

Other students discovered a past they knew nothing about.

“The blue I picked represents the Smoky Mountains where my Cherokee ancestors once lived and for Lake Superior, where I live now,? said 11-year-old Keaton.

Keaton, who has ancestors from Germany, Norway and Ireland, also incorporated the national flag colors into his weave.

“It was a lot of fun,? he said. “My mom makes great Sauerkraut and now I know why.?

Levine dedicated the final product to the Grant Recreation Community Center, where it hangs proudly in the main building.

“It still catches my eye and I’m reminded of all of the good things that came out of it,? Campbell said.

Levine’s fourth graders won a Minnesota Department of Learning Award for their outstanding work on the loom.

Despite the award, Levine said the students walked away with something much more important.

“The students learned what they were to each other, to this community, to this city and to this country,? Levine said. “By looking at their heritages and backgrounds, they could easily see how much their histories intertwined and connected. That is an important part of life.?

The Central Hillside's Bob Dylan connection

DCN Reporter

In 1948, at the age of 6, Robert Zimmerman left his home in Duluth’s Central Hillside and moved to Hibbing with his family. Sixty years later, people still remember his time here, but most now know him by the name of Bob Dylan.

One fan, John Bushey, a radio disc jockey for 16 years, knows what Duluth lost when Dylan left.

“Bob Dylan has had an influence on every musician since him,? Bushey said. “He was the reason for the transfer from folk rock to electric rock.?

Bushey was nearly the only supplier of memorabilia when the city of Hibbing sought to create a Dylan museum.

Now, Bushey is one of several trying to bring Dylan’s legacy back to Duluth.

A 2006 resolution, passed by the Duluth City Council, designated a 1.8-mile stretch of road in Duluth’s downtown as Bob Dylan Way, the result of efforts by a Bob Dylan committee that includes both Bushey and Jean Shaw.

Jean Shaw knows what’s at stake as well.

“Bob Dylan got his start in music while he was in Duluth,? Shaw said.

The only problem is that Dylan spent a significant majority of his childhood in Hibbing.

He didn't leave the Iron Range until he went off to college at the University of Minnesota in 1959.

“Today, Dylan would call Hibbing his hometown,? said Bushey.

Despite that fact, there is still a real Dylan presence in Duluth.

Perhaps the most significant of these is the Duluth National Guard Armory, which played an undeniable role in Dylan’s early growth as a musician.

While still living in Hibbing, Dylan made his way back to Duluth to see Buddy Holly play a concert three days before Holly died in a plane crash.

"I was three seats away from him, and he looked at me and...I know he was with us all the time we were making this record in some kind of way," Dylan said at an awards show in 1998.

If you want to go back to his beginnings, you need look no further than his Central Hillside birth home, located at 519 N. Third Ave..

The home was last sold in 2001 on eBay to a Dylan fan who wanted the house as part of his collection.

“I’ve heard stories of him banging on pianos while he was there,? Bushey says. “But I don’t know how much music you can learn when you’re only 6 years old.?

Now, the Dylan committee is working on other ways to remember the musician.

Efforts are underway to show Dylan displays in some of Duluth’s most prominent restaurants.

Also, the committee is trying to start an annual Dylan Days, similar to the one already in place in Hibbing.

There is little doubt that Duluth will ever forget about its native son, so long as we don’t stop listening to his music, like in his song, Something There is About You.

“Thought I’d shaken the wonder and phantoms of my youth-Rainy days on the Great Lakes, walkin’ the hills of old Duluth,? said Dylan in one of his songs.

A Duluth tradition: Daugherty's Hardware

DCN Reporter

Snow falls gently upon the roof of Daugherty’s Hardware and Appliance in the same way it has every year for the past century.

Many are familiar with this large, family-owned hardware store. It is difficult to miss the gray and blue building which proudly proclaims the name of the original owner: Daugherty.

Although this name is often associated with this store in Duluth, many do not know the origins of this name or how deeply it is embedded in Duluth’s history.

“I just know that it’s been here a long time,? said Sharon Carlson, a customer at Daugherty’s.

“The name has probably been here 90 years,? said employee Mark Johnson while he gazed out the window at the old Daugherty building on Fourth Street.

Near the turn of the century, a Duluth dredge operator named Lewis K. Daugherty began the business we know today as Daugherty’s Hardware and Appliance.

However, in 1894 the store carried items appropriate to the time period, such as tin ware and building materials.

Lewis nurtured the growing business until his son Bertine J. Daugherty took command of the shop. Previous to his ownership at the hardware store, Bertine made a living as a real estate salesman.

The shop, which was located at 516 E. Fourth St. was not only a business but also functioned as Bertine’s home.

Daugherty Bldg.JPG
The first Daugherty's building as it looks today on Fourth Street. (Photo by Jeremy Pieper)

Although it was his business, his home and carried his surname, Bertine sold Daugherty’s to Martin E. Olson in the 1930s.

Olson had previously worked as a general manager at the Marshall-Wells Company in Duluth. This company was a wholesaler of hardware, appliances and industrial supplies, which gave Olson the experience he needed to run a successful hardware store.

In the 1960s, Daugherty’s was again passed along, this time to Robert Lundberg and eventually his son, Terry. This shift in ownership was a harbinger for change for the previously small business.

Daugherty’s quickly began to expand when an adjacent building was leased to make room for a three-story section of appliances. The choice to expand was a result of successful business received by the Lundbergs.

In 1976, Daugherty’s moved across the street to the store those who live in Duluth today know and love.

When the store opened its brand new doors, it offered customers over 20,000 items as well as 25,000 square feet of warehouse; an enormous growth compared to the store’s meager beginnings in the early 1900s.

In a final change of control of the store, Scott Lundberg became owner in 1990 and works there to this day assisting customers with a proud look upon his face.

His business’s extensive history is not merely a memory, but a valuable asset to his ever growing business.

“Customers see we’ve been here a long time and see we’ve been established,? said Lundberg.

Most visitors to the store are not aware of the specifics of the business’ history, but do know that it has been around for quite some time.

This proves to be beneficial to the hardware store.

“I shop here because I like to support local business,? said Carlson.

To some, it is important that a business have roots within its community.

“It’s a generation after generation kind of a thing,? said Dick Taival, a customer of Daugherty’s. “You know that they’re going to treat you right.?

To Taival, they’re a business that is “concerned with reputation.?

A business that has earned itself a century old reputation will uphold it for the benefit of its customers.

“I know I can come here and actually see a person,? said Kara Salmela, a customer at Daugherty’s. She said enjoys the service and the knowledge the family owned business gives to visitors.

And yet, others come to the store for its well-known and knowledgeable staff.

“The staff knows exactly where everything is,? said Carlson.

“A lot of employees have worked here a long time,? said Taival.

He confidently knows that due to its history, one may find an array of knowledgeable people willing to help.

Yvonne Pilcher is one of these knowledgeable staff members.

“I’ve been here for 20 years,? she said. “I keep seeing the same customers coming.?

Pilcher’s view of Daugherty’s extensive history is refreshing and powerful.

“With history, comes experience,? said Pilcher confidently.

Life long Duluthian tells his story

DCN Reporter

Duluth is a city full of history, found in its buildings and even its storms. But the thing that makes this history so great is the people involved. The people who built those buildings, the people who survived those storms, the people who lived in this city.

Herb Widell is one of those people. He has lived in Duluth his entire life. He is part of this city, and he deserves to have his story told.

Herb was born on Aug. 30, 1918, to Andrew and Elin Widell. His father came to America in 1907 and was married to Elin in 1912.

Herb with his father and some friends.jpg
Herb stands with his father and his father's friends in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy of Herb Widell)

“I was the first child in my family to be born in a hospital,? Herb says. His two sisters were delivered by midwives. He had a brother who was born in 1927, but only lived a year before his death.

“My family took that death really hard,? Herb says.

Growing up, the Widell family lived in West Duluth. According to “Varmland in West Duluth,? a book that Widell helped write about his life, his family lived in the Tremont Hotel. Located on Central Avenue and Roosevelt Street, the Tremont was considered a dump.

“It was a rough time for my family,? Herb says on the whole experience. “My family did what they had to.?

Andrew and Elin worked and cleaned for workers at the National Iron Works. Herb would put all the meals for the men on a little wagon and then deliver them to the workers. The manuscript, “Tour Old Duluth,? states that the Tremont was renamed to the Gardner Hotel in 1922.

Growing up, Herb was never a fan of school. He enjoyed his sports though.

“I played tennis, basketball and football. I was pretty good at them all,? Herb says. He graduated from Denfeld High School in 1936.

After that, Herb tried to join the Navy. He was turned down and was told that he was not good enough.

“Back then you had to earn your way into there; now they are just taking anyone,? Herb says.

Herb went on to attend the University of Minnesota to study engineering.

“I liked it and I was good at it,? Herb says.

He left college in 1940 to once more attempt to get into the Navy, this time with success.

“I was on a carrier for six year,? Herb says.

He enjoyed being in the Navy and met a lot of friends there and loved the traveling that they did.

“I won a battle star from being there, but I can’t remember why,? Herb says with a laugh.

After World War II, Herb went on to marry Lorraine Beutner.

“She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I truly loved her,? Herb says. He then went back to college and graduated in 1948 with a degree in engineering.

Herb got a job at Murphy Oil in Superior, Wis., and worked until retirement in 1983. He and his wife gave birth to twins, who went on to give Herb four grandchildren.

After his wife’s death in 2001, Herb lived alone in West Duluth near his children until 2007. A few months ago he moved into the Aftenro Home.

“I like it here and the staff is nice,? Herb says about his home.

Donna Laurila works at Aftenro.

“Herb is a very caring man…he is so interesting,? she says.

Sharron Latour also works at Afterno.

“Herb is quite the guy. He is really intelligent and has an interesting story to tell,? says Latour.

Herb is now 90 years old and has lived in Duluth his entire life and has learned a few things about life.

He sits in his room, reading books and talking to others. He is willing to give his advice to those who ask for it: “Take it easy, live life one day at a time.?

December 12, 2007

Abandoned Armory building in Duluth potentially set to get a facelift

Armory 1.JPG
Photo courtesy of Susan Phillips, executive director of The Armory Arts & Entertainment Center.

DCN Reporter

Across the street from the Rose Garden on London Road stands an old, decrepit four-story building. Once an entertainment hot spot in the community, the Armory building now sits abandoned in the Central Hillside.

But one group of people is working to make the Armory a landmark in Duluth as it was 50 years ago. The Armory Arts & Music Center (AAMC) is a non-profit group that owns the Armory and hopes to find someone willing to start redeveloping the building.

In a request for proposals to prospective developers written by the AAMC, there are plans for a hotel, restaurant, concert hall, and retail stores. The AAMC also hopes to keep an educational and historical aspect of the building.

“We want to set up music education and other educational programs,? said Carolyn Sundquist, an AAMC board member.

The Armory is a fitting place for musical and cultural education because of its rich music history. On a January night in 1959, the Duluth Armory building hosted one of the most talked about concerts in the city’s history. Buddy Holly, an American song writer and 50s rocker played in front of a packed house in the Armory’s drill hall. Somewhere in the audience was a young Bob Dylan. According to a March 17, 2002, article in the Duluth News Tribune by Susan Phillips, executive director of the AAMC, Dylan later spoke of the impact of that concert on his life and musical career.

According to the AAMC’s request for proposals, other stars such as Bob Hope, Johnny Cash, Duke Ellington and the Harlem Globetrotters have all performed at the Armory.

The AAMC hopes a renovated Armory building would draw new headliners to the community as it once did.
Armory 2.JPG
Artist rendering of the proposed renovation of Duluth's Armory building on London Road. Photo courtesy of Susan Phillips of The Armory Arts & Entertainment Center.

The potential for the building is what the AAMC has pitched to developers, yet it has been a long and hard process to find someone willing to invest in such a big project.

“We’ve had a string of developers take a hard look at it,? said Mark Poirier, an architect who is involved in the project. “You have to have everyone lined up and ready to shake hands. A lot of trust is involved.?

One of the reasons that developers have been reluctant to take on the renovation is the cost of investment. In the AAMC’s request for proposals, the estimated cost for renovation is about $18 million.

“It takes the right developer with the right vision to make sure that they can turn a profit,? said Sundquist.

Ed Briesemeister was a developing consultant for the AAMC a few months back. He points to another problem that stands in the way of a new Armory.

“One major hurdle (is) the Duluth economy,? said Briesemeister. “The Duluth economy is sluggish enough that developers are reluctant to dive into it.?

Even with these challenges ahead, the AAMC might have found a taker. According to Poirier, Mike Kunz of Icon Architects in Grand Forks, ND and his business partner, Tom Arnodt have given the AAMC a development agreement.

“The next step in the process is finalizing the funding sources,? said Poirier. “It’s a lot of work and a lot of money.?

But it’s one step closer to a revitalized Armory.

Fourth Street Market’s owners serving Hillside community for over 30 years

Fourth Street Market (photo taken by Gina Wilken)

DCN Reporter

A little over a year ago, it was uncertain whether Little John’s Fourth Street Market would continue to occupy the quiet corner tucked away in the heart of the Central Hillside.

John and Annette Nygard owned and ran the store for 36 years. The couple wanted to retire from the business in 2006, but were struggling to do so because nobody was interested in purchasing it.

After the Hillside Business Association (HBA) recognized that both residents and businesses would be hurt if the store was to close, the HBA decided to step in, hoping to ensure its marketplace in the neighborhood.

The HBA is a neighborhood business organization that aims to revitalize the Central and East Hillside Business Districts, according to the Duluth Local Initiatives Support Coalition.

“It provides a lot of retail grocery sales for many people in the neighborhood that really don’t have the means of getting to the other grocery stores,? said Bruce Wyman, the executive director of the HBA. “I felt that it was our responsibility to make sure that the store didn’t leave the neighborhood.?

According to the City of Duluth, the store is one of the two independently owned neighborhood grocery stores in Duluth. The other is on Park Point.

The HBA worked with John and his wife for about six or seven months until they decided to bring in a young couple with some knowledge of grocery store business.

“They weren’t financially able to purchase it,? Wyman said.

The A. H. Zeppa Foundation and the City of Duluth helped the HBA invest in the project to preserve the market.

“The store never had to close for even one day, and that was something we really wanted,? Wyman said. “I didn’t want down time because people would start going to other places.?

In June 2006, Deyona and Jamar Kirk took over Little John’s Fourth Street Market and changed its name to Ma and Pop’s Fourth Street Market.

The new owners are currently leasing the market from the HBA until they can afford to purchase it.

“We didn’t want the market to close,? Deyona Kirk said. “We kept it open. People seem so happy about it.?

The previous owners, John and Annette Nygard, agreed to stay in Duluth for six months to help the Kirks adjust to the business.

They spent time teaching the new owners how to operate the daily business and introduced them to the different vendors.

“They have been very helpful to us in keeping the market going,? Deyona Kirk said. “We still keep in touch with them?

The Kirks have tried to keep the market as it was with the intention of keeping old customers and drawing in new business.

“We have changed close to nothing in the business,? Jamar Kirk said. “Very few things are different.?

Deyona said she and her husband work well as a team.

“Jamar takes care of the work in the store,? Deyona Kirk said. “He usually does the things such as stocking the shelves and ordering new products.?

Deyona does the bookkeeping and much of the tasks within the office.

The couple says they enjoy the interaction with the customers the most. “We have had a great response,? Deyona Kirk said. “The customers are very patient and welcoming with us.?

Since taking over the ownership of the store, the Kirks began to widen the selection and offer more of a variety to their customers by adding new items.

Ma and Pop's Fourth Street Market (Photo by Gina Wilken)

“We have recently added soul food [a variety of African American food]and Puerto Rican food to the deli menu,? Deyona Kirk said.

A large DVD and VHS rental selection is just one of the new items the market features. The couple also strongly encourages people to try their new delivery and catering services.

“The Kirks have done a wonderful job,? Wyman said. “They get between 800 to 1,000 customers a day.?

A lot of the market’s equipment was outdated and the HBA has recently been working with the Kirks to replace it.

Wyman said the HBA has put about 30,000 dollars of their own money to remodel it.

“We wanted to bring up the quality of the neighborhood,? Wyman said.

What was once a hit in the mid-20th Century slowly declined

DCN Reporter

Looking at Duluth now, things are very different than they were 50 years ago. Changes have happened everywhere you look. Where the casino now stands there was once a Sears and Roebuck store, the Last Place on Earth used to be across the street and three blocks down from where it is now. Greysolon Plaza was originally the Hotel Duluth, and the Norshor Theatre used to be a booming business, with a tower of lights coming out of the top.

When the Norshor was first built, it was an architectural masterpiece. It paved the way for a new era of design when it came to movie theaters, or as they were more commonly known back then, show houses.

“When you’d walk in, to your right there was the ticket booth and straight ahead was a concession stand. Farther down you had a choice between going upstairs to the balcony, where you could smoke, and going to the first floor, with stadium seating,? said Duluth native Arvid Fleischer.

The Norshor Theatre was incredibly popular when it opened in 1941, and continued to be popular during the '50s and on through the '60s.

“I used to go there every Friday night [in the late-40’s],? said Mary Ellen Segrem. “All the young kids were there, and everyone wanted to sit in the back row so they could smooch with their boyfriend.?

Segrem said when she would visit, tickets only cost 25 cents, but it cost that much to drive there too.

“It was worth the drive, that was the best theater in Duluth,? said Segrem. “It played all the best movies and there was no better place to be on a Friday night.?

Dennis Nesbitt Sr., who grew up in Duluth, remembers the Norshor as a high-scale theater in the mid-50s, when tickets cost 50 cents. Everything was always nice and clean, and mischief was never tolerated.

“There was always an usher, standing in the back with a flashlight,? said Nesbitt. “If you started making noise or goofing around, you were out of there quick, so kids would always be in the washrooms making trouble, since it was more private in there.?

In the late-60s, however, things started to decline for the Norshor.

“They didn’t show as good of movies, and the washrooms were always a mess. I don’t know if it was losing money or management just didn’t want to put the money into maintenance, but it started to go downhill,? Nesbitt said.

In the mid-80s, the theater finally closed, having fallen into such disrepair that the city would no longer allow it to run.

“It sat empty there for quite a while, and it wasn’t too many years ago that it was finally re-opened,? said 83-year-old Gene St. Marie, who says he was 17 when the theater opened.

Throughout the '90s, the property changed hands a few times before finally being bought by its current owner, Eric Ringsred. During this time, it was used as a dance hall, a comedy club, and even a bar.

“Apparently [according to the Ripsaw] Charlie Chaplin was married there, and W.C. Fields performed there once or twice,? said Butch Bodin. “It used to be a big spot for vaudeville comedy, so they tried to bring that back. The renegade comedy theatre used to act there during the 90’s."

Finally, in June of 2007, the Norshor became what it is today. With some controversy, Ringsred opened a gentlemen’s’ club at 211 E. Superior St. now called the Norshor Experience.

“They kept it true to the old design,? said Gary Bishop, who lives below the Norshor. “Ringsred put a lot of money into restoring the building.?

Although the architecture stayed true to its original glory, the new shows that can be seen in the building are not what everyone would prefer in downtown Duluth.

“I think it’s in the wrong part of town for what it’s being used for,? said Nesbitt.

Bed and Breakfast home has a “rich? history

DCN Reporter

As Duluth is being transformed into a beautiful winter wonderland, many visitors to the Northshore are going the way of cozy Bed and Breakfast Inns when looking for a romantic getaway. The A. Charles Weiss Inn at 1615 E. Superior St., boasts a relaxing retreat for couples in a historic home over a century old, rich in Victorian charm.

“It’s so warm and welcoming,? said current owner Tim Edwards. “The architecture itself is pretty spectacular.?

Built in 1898 by Duluth Herald publisher Anton Charles Weiss, the building was home to him and his family for 30 years, a time in which he and his wife Mary became prominent community leaders in Duluth.

A.C. Weiss.jpg Mrs. A.C. Weiss.jpg
A.C. Weiss and Mrs. A.C. Weiss

“We chose this home because it is so rich in Duluth history,? said Edwards. “The Weiss family was very distinguished in Duluth.?

A.C. Weiss first came to Duluth in 1885 as a representative of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. According to a Nov. 28, 1933, Duluth News Tribune article, in 1891, after a series of ownerships and failures of the Duluth Herald, Weiss was offered the position of publisher by Mayor S. F. Snively. Weiss ran the paper successfully until his retirement in 1921.

Along with his role as publisher of the Duluth Herald, Weiss sat as a member of the board of directors for the Associated Press from 1909-1921, according to a April 10, 1933 Duluth Herald article. The Herald being the smallest paper represented on the board at that time.

While her husband was highly esteemed in Duluth, Mrs. Mary Weiss also made her mark in Duluth history.

According to a Dec. 29, 1941, Duluth Herald article, Mrs. Weiss was named the 12th member of the Duluth Hall of Fame in 1935 due to her leadership in Girl Scout activities, which brought national attention to Duluth, along with her work as a member of the women’s advisory committee of the Community Fund and her work with the educational and social welfare committee of the Chamber of Commerce and the Needlework Guild.

“Probably the most notable thing that happened to the family while they lived here was the death of their daughter,? said Edwards.

According to a Nov. 15, 1918, article in the Duluth Herald, 18-year-old Mary Weiss died from the Spanish influenza after having contracted it through her work as a volunteer nurse. The article also notes that she was one of the first to volunteer in an emergency hospital when the epidemic first broke out.

In 1929, the Weiss family moved from 1615 E. Superior St. into a new home, selling the property to Franklyn A. Johnson, who in 1934 converted the building into apartments.

“It was an apartment building until 1988 when the previous owners bought it and started renovations,? said Edwards.

According to a 2002 Duluth News Tribune article, the house was condemned and slated for demolition when Dave and Peg Lee bought it.

“It took them five years to renovate and get it up and running again,? said Edwards.

Also, in the Duluth News Tribune article, Dave Lee cites the reason they made the house into a bed and breakfast as being a way for them to live in a home they might not otherwise have been able to afford.

“We wanted to have a way that someone could stay home and raise a family,? said Lee.

The Lee family sold the A. Charles Weiss Inn in 2004 to current owners Tim and Karla Edwards, but they did leave their mark on the house.

“The [Inn’s] room names came from their children, Elias Reuban, Gretal Lenore and Elsa Amelia,? said Edwards. “However, the other two rooms, The Herald Suite and The Inkwell, get their names from A. C. Weiss being a newspaper man.?

The Inn not only boasts a historical Victorian retreat for couples, but is also a relaxing getaway offering a full service breakfast and on-site massage therapist.

“We really aim to please,? said Edwards.

Industrialisti: History of a Finnish-language socialist newspaper

DCN Reporter

Most families have at least one tradition that goes back further than anybody can recall. In some cases it's a cookie recipe. In others, it's an occupation like farming. For Sirkka Holm's family, it's socialism.

At 88 years old, Sirkka is remarkably lucid. She tells how her grandfather established the first socialist hall in his village in Finland in the late 1800s, and she remembers clearly her father looking desperately for work in Massachusetts after being blacklisted for striking during the Great Depression.

Not to be overshadowed by her family, Sirkka has devoted much of her life to leftist causes. Along with her husband Taisto, she wrote for the Finnish-language socialist newspaper Tyomies-Eteenpain for over 20 years.

The paper, published out of Superior, Wis. and circulated nationally, provided a way for leftist Finns across the country to keep in touch, says Sirkka, especially during trying times for the movement such as the McCarthy era in the 1950s.

"It was an honorable paper," she says. "It let the people know when anybody was arrested or deported. And back then, they had a lot of excuses to deport you."

Even during the McCarthy era, the paper was a shadow of what it was in the early 1900s when, despite many attempts at censorship by the authorities, it opposed United States involvement in World War I and openly sympathized with the Bolshevik revolution in Russia.

At that time there were more than 26,000 Finns born in Finland in St. Louis County. Many of them had been influenced by the communist revolutionary thought circulating around czarist Russia, of which Finland was then a part.

In the upper Midwest where the majority of Finns settled, the work in the iron mines and logging camps was harsh and the pay was low, conditions conducive to the ideologies that they had developed in Finland.

On top of that, existing labor unions weren't always sympathetic to the plight of immigrant laborers. They viewed them as competitors who drove down the price of labor,said Richard Hudelson, the author of By the Ore Docks, A Working People's History of Duluth.

"These immigrants ... they were excluded. They were downtrodden. They got the worst jobs at the worst pay," said Hudelson.

Because of this, many Finns and other ethnic groups turned to more radical political organizations such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the Communist Party for action and acceptance, said Hudelson.

Newspapers sprang up to educate workers on ideology and to spread the word about planned strikes and demonstrations.

For the Finnish community of Duluth and Superior, those papers were Tyomies, which supported the electoral politics of the Communist Party, and the Industrialisti (The Industrialist), which advocated the brand of industrial syndicalism touted by the IWW.

In their heyday, both papers were published daily and were read widely by Finns throughout the country, especially in areas with high concentrations of Finnish immigrants like the Twin Ports, the Iron Range, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Hudelson recalls seeing a preserved Industrialisti newspaper from the 1910s at the Ely-Winton Historical Society in Ely, Minn.

"I was in awe," said Hudelson. "It was really an elaborate, world-class paper. And the fact that they put it out daily is just ... amazing."

In 1950, Tyomies, out of Superior, merged with Eteenpain, out of New York City, to consolidate resources in a time of diminishing readership.

Finns from Finland were getting old, says Sirrka, and many in the new generation weren't all that willing to pick up where their parents had left off.

"A lot of their children saw what they had been through and they didn't want that. It was just a handful of us who kept on believing what our parents did," says Sirkka.

With its editorial staff getting smaller by the year and a shrinking demographic of Finnish speakers, Industrialisti closed its doors in 1975. Tyomies continued, albeit with increasingly infrequent publishing.

The paper was given to Finlandia University in Hancock, Mich. in 2000, and is still published monthly under the name Finnish American Reporter, although it no longer retains much connection with the radical politics of its past.

Sirkka and her husband continue to write history columns for the paper, trying to remind readers of a history that was far from ordinary.

"Some of the old folks still write about politics, but it's a different paper than what it was," says Sirkka.

With shovels and snow blowers, Daugherty’s helps Duluth survive through the ’91 'mega-storm'

DCN Reporter

Most people think of Halloween as a holiday filled with scary costumes, sweet candies and little trick-or-treaters, but when the Halloween of 1991 comes to mind, many can remember it being filled with shovels, snow blowers and endless amount of snow.

From Halloween until Nov. 3, 1991, the snowstorm to which many know as the “mega-storm,? dumped 36.9 inches or over three feet of snow in Duluth, according to the National Weather Service of Duluth.

“No one went anywhere for two or three days,? said Sheri Dunbar, 50, the owner of the small Dunbar Floral and Gift shop in the Hillside. “We got a ton of snow.?

Though the “mega-storm? nearly shut down all of Duluth, Scott Lundberg didn’t let a little snow get in his way.

Lundberg, 53, the owner of Daugherty’s Hardware and Appliances on East Fourth Street in the Hillside, remembers the storm like it was yesterday.

“The snow never stopped,? Lundberg said.

The Poplar, Wis. native, who didn’t miss a single day of work during the storm, remembers driving the one-hour commute to work every day through the whiteout conditions.

“I didn’t let the storm get me,? said Lundberg, whose family has owned the Hillside hardware store since 1965.

Daugherty’s sells a variety of hardware and appliances. It also has many shovels and snow blowers in stock during the winter months.

But the “mega-storm? in ’91 brought in a few more shovel and snow blower sales than the average weekend, or for that matter, the average year.

“We sold every shovel and snow blower we had,? said Lundberg. “It was the largest sales day in our history.?

As Lundberg recalls, during the storm, there were only five employees in the store, a cashier and the rest who helped distribute shovels and snow blowers to many eager customers.

“We just sold shovels and snow blowers,? Lundberg said.

Lundberg even remembers some customers who assembled their snow blowers upstairs at Daugherty’s that they had just purchased, so they could use them to walk back home.

While the “mega-storm? crushed snowfall records, Daugherty’s--within just a few days--smashed records of their own. “We sold our entire yearly inventory of shovels and snow blowers,? Lundberg said.

John Colt, 24, who did his fair share of shoveling during the Halloween weekend has now worked at Uncle Loui’s café in the Hillside for five years.

When the “mega-storm? happened, Colt was in elementary school and he still remembers how his friends, family and neighbors helped each other out.

“The snow was nearly over our heads,? said Colt. “We had the whole family out there shoveling.?

According to the Duluth News Tribune, the “mega-storm,? was the worst snowstorm in the region’s history, burring neighborhoods, leaving many without power and littering the streets with countless abandoned vehicles.

Sandy Himmelspach, 48, who has worked at the Dunbar Floral and Gift shop in the Hillside for ten years, distinctly remembers people wearing shirts after the snowstorm.

“I survived the mega-storm? was the phrase printed across each shirt.

However, if it wasn’t for people like Lundberg and stores like Daugherty’s Hardware and Appliances, many Duluthians might not have survived the “mega-storm,? and could still be digging themselves out today.

“We never closed,? said Lundberg. “While people were at home, we were at the registers.?

Historic Duluth home featured on HGTV


Duluth would have to be a city fit for Antiques Road show. Everyone and their grandma knows the show that draws in folks for a highly anticipated appraisal. There are undoubtedly tons of valuable antiques located in Duluth, most of which are probably located in Dennis Lamkin’s house.

Lamkin is a V.P. Senior Property Manager for US Bank. His home, The Highpoint House, in itself is fit for a museum. The home has appeared on HGTV for good reason, and even a walk in the front door requires some background.

Bernard Silberstein built the house for his wife Nettie in 1914. The two moved to Duluth after their marriage, and started to do business. They started door- to-door sales and eventually opened the first dry goods store in Duluth. This business grew and became successful, which is why the Silbersteins were so influential.

“We bought the home sight unseen,? said Dennis. “I knew about the home’s history and made an offer to the owner without looking inside.?

The whole idea of buying a home before even looking at it seems scary, especially after they saw the inside of the house a year later. However, once Dennis saw the hanging light in the entryway, he ignored the crushed blue velvet found on the walls, and knew he made a good decision.

“The light was basically worth what I paid for the house,? he says looking up at the light made by Tiffany & Co.

This is all before leaving the entryway.

Each room of the house has its own story. The kitchen is a walk through the ‘50s, including the life-sized, hand-painted Lucy mural on the wall.

The stairway boasts another huge mural of a Turkish tapestry market, a tribute to Silberstein’s Turkish rug sales.

The bedroom at the top of the steps is beautiful. The bed is huge, and the room divider is ornate. On one wall there is a chest-high Bible closet that’s hundreds of years old. In front of the bed is a tapestry fit for the Vatican.

Why? Because the pope used it for Easter mass years ago. Below the tapestry is a brightly colored prayer mat, once used by the Dalai Llama.

Possibly the most interesting thing about the Highpoint House is most of what it contains was bought at some of Duluth’s garage sales.

“People don’t realize what they have,? Lamkin says about some more artwork on his walls. A lot of the things on his walls and floors were bought for a few bucks at garage sales, but are appraised for thousands. That ornate divider, several chairs, a couple of simple drawings were all bought at garage sales, but due to their history, could probably put a kid through college.

It’s one of those things a person learns when they have immersed themselves in the city and culture. Lamkin also does work for the Glensheen Mansion, gives tours of downtown Duluth, fund-raises for the Duluth Orchestra and works for US Bank.

The “good buys? he has found were not accidents, some were lucky, but he knew that what he was buying was worth something. He knows his history and it really has paid off. The reward is a beautiful and interesting home.

Historic church was host to little-known speech by Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois


Saint Mark’s African Methodist Episcopal Church on N. Fifth Ave. is a charming church with a rich history. It’s Duluth’s oldest black church. The building is on the National Register for Historic Places.

In March of 1921 it was host to Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois’ speech commemorating the organization of the Duluth chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

The lynching of three young African-Americans in downtown Duluth in June of 1920 was considered to be one of the most heinous hate-crimes in America in a year that saw plenty of racially motivated violence against blacks, according to Duluth Lynching Online Resource.

The lynching provided the impetus for the founding of the city’s local chapter of the NAACP. By September of that year the NAACP was up and running in Duluth, and March of 1921 saw the new organization host its first speaker, Du Bois.

In the 86 years that followed, almost all memory of the visit and speech of one of the 19th century’s leading civil rights activists has been washed away like hillside topsoil in a flash flood. Apparently only fragments of the speech have been preserved.

“I know of no transcription of that speech in its entirety or full account of Du Bois' stay in Duluth,? said Du Bois expert and associate professor of philosophy at Hunter College in New York City Dr. Frank Kirkand in an email. “I am surprised there is not much of a [local] record of Du Bois' visit given those traumatic events at that time.?

Claudie Washington, President of the Duluth chapter of the NAACP also doesn’t know much about Du Bois’ visit to Duluth.

He did say that former Gov. Jacob Aall Ottesen Preus and Roy Wilkins attended Du Bois’ speech, but this could not be verified.

Duluth lost another potential source of information on Du Bois’ visit in 2004 when the pastor of Saint Mark’s, the Rev. Arthur Foy, was killed in a car accident, Washington said. “The minister knew more about it.?

The Duluth Herald reported the day after the speech that Du Bois addressed “a large audience, many of the white race,? and that his speech concerned the effects of U.S. policy on race relations around the world.

If he did speak about the infamous lynching of three innocent black men the summer before, presumably the reason for his invitation from the NAACP and his visit to the city, it was not noted in the Herald’s report.

“It’s not the only piece of black history in Duluth that nobody knows about, either,? said Washington.

86 years later and still, nothing beats a Coney

DCN Reporter

Some things never change. After 86 years, the original Coney Island still stands at 105 E. Superior St. in downtown Duluth.

Betty Tenkanen is the current manager of the Coney Island, which she has made home for the past 14 years. Even her son and daughter choose to work beside her in this small, close-knit restaurant.

Dated back to 1921, being the oldest restaurant in Duluth, Coney Island hasn’t changed much. The floor may creak a little more and the walls may have more cracks than the year before. However, the original recipes have managed to remain.

coney outside.jpg
Photo by Lisa Kunkel

“It’s one of the few things in Duluth that hasn’t changed,? said Jim Bartel, a regular customer at Coney Island.

A large menu sign hanging on a wall in the back of the restaurant is a reminder of the Coney Island he grew up with.

“Coney Island: 25 cents? reads the sign which was dated back to 1959. A price that will now barely land you enough time at a parking meter to eat a Coney Island.

“I always came down here when I was in junior high school,? Bartel said.

However, he mentioned that, like other kids, this was against his mother’s wishes.

“Coney Island was off limits to the kids,? he said. “‘You don’t go down in that neighborhood,’ my mother would say.?

Nancyline Owens, who has also been coming to Coney Island since she was young, shared similar guidelines.

“They didn’t want me coming here,? she said.

Bartel said that everything east of 14th Ave. E. was considered the “good? part of town. Coney Island did not lie within those limits.

“Those were good families with good values,? he said.

However, all he and his friends cared about were good hot dogs and good company. Coney Island was just what they were looking for.

How did this small restaurant in downtown Duluth become such a landmark and popular tourist site?

The Pagonus family were the first ones to introduce the Coney Island to Duluth.

Tony Pagonus, who took over the business after his father, Tom, has an idea of what made this little place so well known.
Tony Pagonus, 1972
“The hotdog is the superstar,? said Pagonus in a 1972 Duluth News Tribune article titled “Tony’s got a secret, where the hotdog is king.?

Pagonus made it clear that his personal Coney Island recipe is what brought the customers back day after day.

“I sell ten hot dogs for every hamburger,? said Pagonus in the article. “The recipe is worth more than my business. And it’s top secret too.
He said the chili sauce used on the hot dogs is an old family recipe that has been passed down to him.
Tony Pagonis, 1972
Pagonus passed away last year at the age of 80, according to a June, 2006 issue of the Duluth News Tribune, yet, his famous Coney Islands still live on.

Though she may not be part of the Pagonus family tree, Tenkanen said that even today, people are craving the original Coney Island.
old menu.jpg
photo by Lisa Kunkel

“The hot dogs and my good homemade chili,? she said were the most popular items on today’s menu.

However, it’s not just the famous food that draws people into Coney Island. The unique, old fashioned décor of the restaurant is similar to what would be seen in the Coney Island years ago.

Though many of the decorations are well dated, Tenkanen decided to add her own personal touch when she took over as manager.
betty boop.jpg
Photo by Lisa Kunkel

“The Betty Boop wall,? she said, “that was my idea.?
Whether it be a hot summer’s day or a blistering snowstorm, the Coney Island will still be cooking on 105 E. Superior St., just as they have been for 86 years.

Duluth's European Bakery going on 93 years of business

DCN Reporter

Cities and towns can grow and change fast. With the rapid change a city can go through, it may seem like nothing remains the same. In Duluth, however, the European Bakery on First Ave. W. and First St. is an exception.

“We just celebrated 90 years a couple years ago, so it’ll be 93 in 2008,? said Jackie Peterson, an employee at the bakery.

Harry Glazman, a Russian-Jewish immigrant, opened the bakery in 1915. It was passed down to his sons, Aaron “Babe? and James, and then passed to Aaron’s sons, Neil and Charlie. Charlie has since quit the business, so Neil runs the store now.

The bakery’s foods still reflect the culture Harry came from. The store has a number of Kosher foods such as: salt; Borscht, a type of vegetable soup; potica, a pastry roll; and halvah, a confection. The bakery is most famous, however, for its bread, especially the challa, Jewish braided bread.

An article on the bakery, extolling its breads, is mounted on the wall next to the cash register.

“People used to be lined up outside the store,? said Peterson.

Though people don’t line up anymore, there’s still something different about the bakery that makes it original. Cookie jars line shelves behind the pastries and on top of the coolers, and the original bread mixer used by Harry is displayed in the store’s display window.

ABOVE: Challa, Jewish braided bread, is one of the things for which the European Bakery is known. Click on the image to enlarge. (Photo by Claire Chock / DCN)

ABOVE: Cookie jars line the shelves above the pastry cases. Click on the image to enlarge. (Photo by Claire Chock / DCN)

ABOVE: The bakery sells more than just their pastries. Along with Borscht and salt, this Matzo ball and soup mix is available. Click on the image to enlarge. (Photo by Claire Chock / DCN)

Face of Duluth gets a lift

DCN Reporter

From Canal Park to the east and west sides of the downtown business district, Duluth has gone through several renovations in its lifetime.

Just a few decades ago, Canal Park’s hotels and tourist-friendly lakewalk were nothing more than metal and steel in a scrap yard.

James Skurla is the acting director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at UMD.

The bright Canal Park we see today used to be a dangerous place, said Skurla.

“The bay front was terrible,? he said. “Grandma’s was a legendary bar where sailors used to go.?

In order to improve the scenery and boost tourism, the Duluth City Council began discussing widespread “beautification? in 1966, according to “The Will and the Way,? a book on Duluth’s past projects by Manley Goldfine and Donn Carson published in 2004.

The first tourist attraction to be built was the Canal Park Museum in the Maritime Visitor’s Center in 1973.

After Canal Park was reconstructed, the focus shifted to the west side of downtown.

“Now that that’s done, they’ve moved further up the hill,? said Skurla.

Economic incentives and tax breaks for businesses drove the project, he said. Owners had to agree to stop their work so the buildings could be renovated.

For example, the Holiday Center was created over old buildings.

“Eventually they have a nice development and have cleaned up a crummy property,? said Skurla.

The reconstruction and revitalization brought excitement and more opportunities to shop.

“It’s brought new businesses in—that’s why cities do it,? he said.

One of these new businesses is Starbucks in the Phoenix Building on West Superior Street.

Built in the late 19th century, the Phoenix Building was first occupied by multiple businesses, from a drug store to a shop for imported and domestic cigars, according to “Duluth Illustrated,? a book by James Craig on buildings in Duluth that was published in 1890.

After a fire in 1996, it was rebuilt into the building you see today, said Kathy Marinac, a property and leasing manager for A&L Properties.

The property was leased to Gold’s Gym and then a pool hall before settling into the hands of Starbucks.

“Starbucks actually came in August of 2005,? said Marinac.

There are several other coffee shops in the area, including other branches of Starbucks.

But this location west of Lakeside is still doing well, according to Starbucks manager Dave Carlson.

Today, the focus of revitalization has shifted once again.

“Now the east side is changed,? said Skurla.

This section of the district has often been referred to as “old Duluth? because the east end of Lake Street was originally the heart of downtown.

The local historical society was displeased with the plan to create what is now known as the Tech Village, said Skurla.

“The Tech Village was to completely replace a stretch of old buildings,? said Marinac.

“A lot of people wanted to keep those stone buildings,? said Skurla.

The renovation on the east side has tried to preserve the “flavor? of old Duluth.

The Technical Village was originally going to be called the “Soft Center? for software developers. The internet went wireless and the name was changed.

The area was designed for technology corporations and it was hoped that the Tech Village would bring thousands of new jobs. That dream has not come into fruition.

Ironically, a pizza restaurant has flourished instead. The benefit of Pizza Lucé is that it has brought something to do downtown in the evening, creating an exciting nightlife atmosphere.

“That is why it was so important that Pizza Lucé be successful,? said Skurla.

In addition, residential areas are being restored.

In our Renassiance Project we are rebuilding the Wieland block, which is residential housing, said Marinac.

“They’re building condos and apartments back downtown … so they’re trying to revitalize it by getting people to live [there],? said Skurla.

In the future, there are still more changes to come.

“The next five to ten years is going to be really interesting,? said Skurla.

Duluth Playhouse presents "Scrooge the Musical"

DCN Reporter


Almost a hundred years into its existence, the Duluth Playhouse readies itself for another Christmas performance. Since the local theater was founded back in 1914, its estimated that they have done over 500 shows.

This year’s presentation will be “Scrooge the Musical.? Putting a creative twist on a beloved Charles Dickens story, the play has drawn a lot of excitement in the Duluth community.

“The entire show was sold out only days after the opening night,? said Christine Gradl Seitz, the executive and artistic director at the theater, who has worked there since 2000. “We hope to extend the show by at least one more performance,? she added.

The theater’s cast has shifted from community volunteer performers in the 1950s to mostly professional actors today. There are still plenty of opportunities for newcomers.

“We like to think that there’s something for everyone to excel at in theater. Whether they’re running lights, sound, building sets or performing, there’s a job for every kind of person,? said Seitz.

“We’re a gateway for beginning performers and also a place where experienced professionals can perform to refine their talent,? she said.

Over the past five years, the Duluth Playhouse has sold 20 percent more tickets and has tripled its production budget.

“This is a direct reflection on how much our community enjoys what we’re doing,? Seitz added.

The Christmas play, “Scrooge the Musical,? has attracted a lot of attention for its cast and its classic story. Some of the performers are known for their prior Christmas performances by the theater. The feedback from viewers was pleasantly positive and looks to be another great performance for the Duluth Playhouse.

“Walsh, who has essayed the title role before in a purely dramatic production, commands the stage and effects a believable transformation that ends with one of the merriest Scrooges in memory,? wrote Duluth News Tribune entertainment critic Lawrance Bernabo in a review.

A UMD student who saw the show on its opening weekend, Natalie St. Marie, loved what she saw on the show’s opening weekend.

“I especially liked the scene where they had the Marley brothers come flying down,? St. Marie said. “The whole play was well done, and I would recommend that people come see it with their family during the holidays,? she added.

The Duluth Playhouse has endured many challenges. It has survived many hardships from the financial struggles during World War I to a fire in 1971 that nearly destroyed the entire building. The only part of the building that wasn’t damaged by fire was the room containing their records, photos and other historical files.

ABOVE: The fire caused a great deal of damage to the Duluth Playhouse in 1971. Click on the image to enlarge. (Photo courtesy of "The Duluth Playhouse 75th Anniversary: 1914-1989" booklet)

It’s easy to see that the Duluth Playhouse is focused on being involved in their community. They now have another building in the downtown area called the Play Ground. The goal is to showcase the artistic talent in Duluth. Not only do they aim to display theatrical skills, but also dance, music, art, film and the spoken word. The Play Ground serves as a home to many of Duluth’s experienced and emerging artists.

“Our goal is simply to provide opportunities for everyone,? Seitz explained.

Don’t worry if you can’t get tickets for “Scrooge the Musical,? because they’ll be hosting four more popular plays this spring and summer.

For more information on dates, times and the theater’s history you can visit them online.

ABOVE: The advertisement for the Duluth Playhouse's upcoming "Scrooge the Musical" production. Click on the image to enlarge.

December 3, 2007

Hillside residents tired of reputation for crime

DCN Reporter

In recent years, the majority of crimes reported in the city of Duluth have been rumored to occur in the Central Hillside.

Despite the negative press that sometimes circulates about the area, many residents are sick of the gossip.

“It gets a bad rep, but it’s not that bad at all,? said 55-year-old Tom Potter, a full-time employee at Spur. “If you think about it, there are bad areas everywhere you go. It’s not any different than other parts of Duluth.?

Potter, a Duluth native, said it isn’t what everyone makes it out to be.

“I moved to the Hillside in 1983 and I knew there was some crime here,? he said. “Now, I realize it’s only a small minority of people that are actually committing those crimes and the area shouldn’t be judged on just those people.?

In the last few years, the Hillside has been reported to be the main station for drug trafficking, according to the Duluth Police Department Web site.

In fact, from 2004-2005, drug- related crimes in the Hillside increased by 20 percent, according to the Web site.

Despite the statistics, Potter remains optimistic.

“It’s a pretty big area, full of a lot of ethnicity,? said Potter. “We have a big variety, including a lot of senior citizens, college houses and families. Who wouldn’t want to live here??

Daugherty Hardware employee Shannon Hall agrees.

“I’ve worked in the area for a long time and I wouldn’t move anywhere else,? she said. “It’s a great area to meet new people and hang out. It isn’t as bad as they say it.?

Hall said that it bothers her that people label the area as “ghetto,? but she is used to the term.

“It’s a little rough, sure, but it’s shaping up,? Hall said. “Nothing crime related has happened to me.?

Sixty-year-old Leona Krieg begs to differ.

Crime always seems to happen in her neighborhood, she said.

“I’ve been here my entire life and it’s really changed,? she said. “Just recently, my neighbors had a break-in and I had some things stolen from my garden.?

Krieg, however, refuses to be bitter about it.

“I love my neighbors and the community we’ve built together,? she said. “It all comes down to that.?

The residents of the Hillside enjoy their lives and disregard the rest, she said.

Hillside parking rules important as snow flies

DCN Reporter

For many residents of the Central Hillside, on-street parking can be a daily battle for space. A majority of streets in the Central Hillside implement an “alternate side? parking policy, which requires people to park on opposite sides of the street every other week.

This can be not only frustrating but also costly to those who dare to attempt to defy it.

Stephen Ward lives on Fifth Street and has received a handful of tickets for not adhering to the parking policy.

“I’ve probably got at least three or four tickets a year,? Ward said. “Sometimes I just forget about it but other times I park on the wrong side just for a few minutes to run inside and then I come back out and there’s a ticket.?

The parking system requires people to park their cars on only one side of the street from 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon to 8 p.m. the following Sunday. The only time parking is allowed on both sides of the street is during the change-over period from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays, according to the Duluth Police Department.

Residents that have off-street parking, such as Andrew Scully who lives on Seventh Street, don’t have much of a problem with the policy.

“I usually park behind my house so the parking doesn’t really bother me,? Scully said. “The only thing that I don’t like is when people park on the wrong side on purpose and it constricts traffic even more because there are cars on both sides of a narrow street.?

The parking becomes more of a problem during the winter when snow plows need to be able to plow the streets.

If people park on both sides of the street the plows can’t get through safely. This can lead to cars being damaged or towed, more expensive tickets and roads not being plowed.

“I’ve seen a couple cars get taken out by plows because the driver can’t see them and doesn’t know a car is on the wrong side,? Ward said. “Not only that but then our street doesn’t get plowed and the road just gets worse.?

As winter quickly approaches and more and more snow begins to fall, parking will become a bigger problem once again so be wary of where you park your car during a snow storm.

Portland Park playground gets new equipment

DCN Reporter

For St. Louis County and Duluth officials, perhaps the most worthwhile expenditures come from an empty playground that appears frozen in time as snowflakes slowly trickle down the equipment.

However, once the warm weather rolls around next year, Portland Square will be filled with children and adults who are looking to take a break from everyday life. But for now, Duluth Mayor Herb Bergson stands before the equipment amongst his colleagues and cuts the ribbon to the playground.

The $28,000 equipment is not just a place to hang-out after school…it has a new philosophy.

“It’s a formal play area that (kids) can get exercise, they can learn lifelong activities to become more physically active,? said Kathy Bergen, director of Duluth Parks and Recreation. “It’s also a place for them to develop socials skills and learn how to get along with other people.?

Other city officials agree and with an area such as the Central Hillside that many stigmatize, the investment some say will only reduce deviancy amongst youth.

“Money spent on children’s activities lessens illicit activities around the whole community,? said Elizabeth MacKay, Duluth Parks and Recreation Commissioner.

However, the new equipment is not the only attraction to Portland Square. Both Bergson and Bergen say it’s a location for families to picnic and simply unwind after a stressful day. Although the playground is an attraction, the park is also an area for many to participate in a neighborhood football game or grill-out.

The dedication itself culminates the last of five recreation-related projects around the Duluth area that have been designated across the city this year. The other projects include three playgrounds, a basketball court, and a trail bridge at Lester Park. The only regret officials say, is that they couldn’t do more.

“Unfortunately, they’re aren’t that many parks especially for kids,? said St. Louis County Commissioner Steve O’Neil.

However, both the City of Duluth and St. Louis County expect to recoup the earnings with the smiles on the faces of every child.

“Any money you spend on after school activities, you’ll get back tenfold,? said MacKay.

December 1, 2007

Mayor Ness acknowledges Duluth's job problem, but change will take time

DCN Reporter

Duluth has been in a job slump for around 20 years now, new Mayor Don Ness said in a personal interview. The city has a 5.4 percent unemployment rate, according to September statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, the effect of which has definitely been felt in the city and Central Hillside itself.

“I think it makes employers less lenient,? said Casey Ulland, a barista at Jitters coffee shop. “If you have a medical problem, your employer can tell you to leave because there's 10 more to take your place. There's always people looking for jobs.?

Duluth residents are not sure of what caused the job shortage, but they do have ideas on how to change things for the better. One suggestion was making microloans available for local entrepreneurs.

“Trying to take out 200 grand when you only need 20 ($20,000) just doesn't make sense,? said Connor Sowada, a bartender in the Fitgers complex. “You can take out a loan for 100 grand but not 10 ($10,000).?

Other suggestions from local business workers and customers for changing the job situation involved supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs by creating funding sources for local businesses, lowering payroll taxes and increasing income tax for the wealthy to balance out the money flow.

“Maybe we could set up some business loans, get tax breaks for companies that import,? said Ulland.

Ness said there are programs in place to help entrepreneurs but resources are limited by the city's budget.

“We're not in a position to start new endeavors,? he said.

However, Ness does have a plan to bring more jobs to Duluth and work with local businesses.

“First, we want to work with the locals and encourage growth of local businesses,? he said. “Second is workplace development, and our strategy for that is to look at what talents the employers are looking for, and then reach out to job seekers and match those people to jobs.?

How long might it take to fix the job situation? Some people said at least five years, some said it depends on how fast the government works to bring more jobs.

“It depends on how quickly they implement things. If they started implementing things right now or within the year I'd say they'd have things changed by 2012,? said Ulland.

Ness said it is not completely up to the city government to handle the job issue.

“It's not the role of the city government to create jobs … we can provide good assistance at City Hall … be supportive of people who come there, but it's not our job to create jobs. We're not in a position to do that,? he said.