« Community center faces challenges in Lincoln Park | Main | Debate continues over downtown casino »

Casino prospers in old Sears building

Related article: Debate continues over downtown casino
DCN Correspondent

When walking through the downtown Duluth business district one can't help but notice the overwhelming neon purple, blue, and yellow lights that shine from the Fond du Luth Casino. It has been one of the top attractions in downtown for over 20 years, but before the Band of Lake Superior Chippewa took over the property in 1985 the building had already been a part of downtown for over 50 years.

Nowadays the glowing neon signs of the Fond du Luth Casino light up the night at 129 East Superior Street, but from 1916 to 1927 G.G Hartley owned Kuglers Drug Store which occupied this part of downtown. Building permits show that the original building was demolished in 1929 and construction of the new Sears and Roebuck Company department store began.

Even with what a 1929 Duluth Herald article called “...delays caused when solid rock was struck in excavating for the new three story building to house the Duluth store,? Sears and Roebuck still opened in 1929 and first appeared in the city directory in 1930.

When Sears and Roebuck had closed its downtown store to become part of the expansion in Miller Hill Mall in the 1980s, the Band of Lake Superior Chippewa purchased the property, according to a July 10th, 1989 Duluth News Tribune article, for close to $3 million. Fond du Luth Casino employee Jackson Ripley says that the Fond du Luth Bingo and Gaming Hall opened in 1985 and expanded to include card games and slot machines in 1988.

“We haven't done too many renovations to the building over the years. We did some interior renovations in the '90s, where we had a tropical theme for five to six years, but then we changed it to our current theme. It is supposed to take on the persona of downtown Las Vegas, the older part of town.? said Ripley. “But we are hoping to do some more renovations in the future.?

Even though the building itself may not have changed much since its construction nearly 80 years ago, its surroundings undoubtedly have. There are some people who are uncertain if the addition of the casino to downtown has been a positive or negative aspect to the community, (see The Long Debate); whatever the effects of the Fond du Luth Casino, it has without doubt become a part of Duluth's history.