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

By JIM SALMELA
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.?

Comments

I recently rec'd an old book called The Brides Book of Recipes & Household Hints. In it there is a picture of a building called the Holland House which was located in Duluth.
It has a remarkable resemblance to the Hotel Duluth. Any connection?
Thanks.