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Duluth Mystery Photo #17: Residence of Luther Mendenhall

Residence of Luther Mendenhall

Did those asbestos shingles last a century? Is the Luther Mendenhall residence still standing? Where is it, or where was it?

The trusty old internet provides a reasonable amount of info on Mr. Mendenhall’s life:

  • Born Martin Luther Mendenhall on Aug. 7, 1836, near Philadelphia in the town of Concord (now called Mendenhall), in Chester County, Penn.
  • Studied law at the University of Michigan.
  • Served the Union Army during such famous Civil War battles as the Second Battle of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Antietam and Gettysburg.
  • Married Feb. 7, 1867, in Philadelphia to Ellen “Ella” Randall Watson.
  • Arrived in Duluth in 1869 as secretary of the Western Land Company, with the assignment to complete Jay Cooke’s Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad, and oversee other investments.
  • Acted as treasurer of Duluth in 1877, following the loss of the city charter.
  • President of the Duluth National Bank.
  • Director of the Duluth Chamber of Commerce in 1886.
  • Partner in the ownership the Duluth Street Railway Company, Duluth Dry Goods and Duluth Shoe Company.
  • Passenger on the first trip of the Incline Railway up Seventh Avenue West to Duluth Heights on Oct. 2, 1891.
  • Divorced in 1895.
  • Married Katherine Belle Hardy on Oct. 6, 1898, in her home town of Chicago.
  • First president of the Duluth Library Association and second president of Duluth’s Parks Board.
  • Died Sept. 26, 1929, in Duluth.

The shingles on the residence, by the way, came from Keasbey & Mattison Co. of Ambler, Penn., which featured Biwabik High School on the cover of one of its promotional brochures.

13 Comments

Suzy

about 5 months ago

This is one of three houses at 2000, 2010 and 2020-22 Woodland Ave known collectively as the Luther Mendenhall Houses built in 1907. The stone and timber from these houses came from the original Traphagen and Fitzpatrick designed Hardy Hall school for girls that stood on that corner in 1896, but closed 5 years later in 1902.

markryan

about 5 months ago

I'm pretty sure one of the George brothers (who ran the pool hall - The Place - in downtown Duluth) lived in one of Mendenhall's houses, the one that sets on the northeast corner of the intersection of Woodland and Snively Road.

Paul Lundgren

about 5 months ago

Indeed, it does seem that 2000 Woodland Avenue is the residence in question.

TimK

about 5 months ago

There's a rumor about an underground tunnel connecting at least two of these houses at one time. (I have no citation, just neighborhood lore).

markryan

about 5 months ago

A little side story about Mendenhall - I remember in researching William Rogers and early Duluth park development that after the Incline Railway was built, Rogers' friend, former president Rutherford B. Hayes, stiffed the Highland Improvement Company (HIC) because the Incline's completion was a month later than their contract's agreed upon time. Hayes owned hilltop property, and landowners in the consortium to be served by the Incline agreed to pay in either cash or land donations once the Incline was completed. (Interestingly, Rogers was listed as president on the HIC's prospectus but he may have resigned the position before the Incline's completion) Anyway, the company sent Luther Mendenhall and another man (I think Hartley) to Ohio to pressure the former president into honoring his debt. Hayes, unfortunately for them, was out of town at the time but one of his sons wrote Rogers about how unpleasant it was dealing with the two Minnesota men who showed up unexpectedly at the Hayes family home. The company eventually sued Hayes but he died before it was ever settled and nothing really came of it.

hbh1

about 5 months ago

Also, that house has been no stranger to minor scandal in its latter years as well. mumblemumble UMD philosophy department divorce...

Tony D.

about 5 months ago

Mendenhall played a huge role in Duluth's history. Here's a bio of him: Luther Mendenhall (1836 – 1929) He was one of the gents who lured Miss Kate Hardy to set up her school here and he financed Hardy Hall (later Cragencroft). But Mrs. Mendenhall didn't like all the time the Mr. spent with Ms. Hardy. After a very public divorce, and failed attempts by others to run the school, Mendenhall, who had since married Hardy, bought the school, had it dismantled, and used the stones to build the three other homes. Before he died in his nineties, he said he owed his longevity to "Good, clean Quaker living."

Dorkus

about 5 months ago

Not to threadjack, but TimK's mention of an underground tunnel makes me curious as to how many buildings in Duluth do, indeed, have underground tunnels. I know of two: one from City Hall to the Courthouse and the other is from the garage to the house of the old Computers Don't Byte building on 22nd Avenue West and Second Street.

waferdog

about 5 months ago

Two items: 1. You may want to change his birth date in the original post. It's off by a little bit. 2. I don't know if these shingles are still on those specific homes, but there are still plenty of examples in the area where these type of shingles are still going strong, so we at least know that the promised longevity is there.

Paul Lundgren

about 5 months ago

Good eye, Waferdog. Mendenhall's birth has been pushed back a century for accuracy thanks to you.

Gerry Burke

about 5 months ago

I grew up in the house at 2000 Woodland Ave. and I don't remember seeing any tunnels, just a big deep dark cold basement with a huge furnace that was SCARY !!!!

Paul Lundgren

about 1 month ago

David Cole owns the Mendenhall house now. He bought it in 1986 from the George family. He says the old photo up top "must have been taken from the long-gone carriage house, possibly from the roof." Cole offers this answer to the roof question:

The "Century Shingles" were specified in the blue prints for the 1907-1908 construction of the house (and two neighboring), otherwise built mostly from materials from the Hardy School / Craggencroft that stood on that site from 1891 to 1907. For example, the windows are all numbered in the blue prints -- removed from the school, as were the doors, fireplaces, etc. The pale red Century shingles were long gone from the back of the house by 1986, replaced by standard asphault/felt 3-tab shingles at least 20 years earlier. But they were still on the front of the house. Those were removed circa 1990 in a complete re-roof -- expensive and slow because of the asbestos regulations. I kept one as souvenir. So, assuming the house was originally roofed in late 1907, "Century" shingles last 83 years. (The same shingles are still going strong as siding on the upper stories of the neighboring houses, 2010 Woodland - less hail damage, and were painted.)

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