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Duluth’s Piper Building

Mysterious Surveyor Type Outside Piper Building

When I was growing up my mom used to take us to the St. Vincent DePaul store in this building, next to our church, Sacred Heart, which was still a place of worship in those days.

At the time my brother and I thought it was just an odd play site, but fun. We’d look at old army uniforms, play with cufflinks and the occasional toy or puzzle. Totally unbeknowst to us, most of our clothes came from there. There were a couple of old, old devout Catholic ladies who worked for the society and they would give my mom breaks on stuff. We were poor, but that’s how it was. They treated everyone with respect as far as I can remember. Those are good memories for me.

The building has changed since then, as many know, of course. St. Vincent De Paul Society moved out sometime in the 90s, when I was in college, maybe. Now I live a couple of blocks away, and I just love this neighborhood, but this so-called “piper building” is seen as a bit of a problem area in the neighborhood. And I don’t dispute that.

Just wanted to remind folks, it wasn’t always that way, and maybe things will get better again. Some nice, small, independent vibrant businesses, plus the laundry and proximity to Sacred Heart, etc, make it an ideal location if we can just put our heels on the backs of the slugs dealing drugs, etc in our neighborhood and … well, you know.

I saw a mysterious, official looking man outside with some kind of surveying tool one day last week. Wondering to myself, is it finally for sale? Owner did a lot of work last summer after all the press. So maybe it is … maybe it is …

23 Comments

Barrett

about 10 years ago

I remember buying stuff for Geek Prom at that St. Vinnie's, which means it was open at least until 2002. It probably closed that year or in '03.

heysme

about 10 years ago

Gram would buy us shoes from St. Vin's. The shoes were brand new but had been slashed (cut) by the store that donated them. 
Gram would take the shoes to Pasco's on 6th Ave and have stitched for next to nothing - new shoes.
We believed she purchased them from a worldy couture boutique but soon realized the telltale stitching on every pair she brought us was suspicious. 
Just out of high school, I lived above the laundromat. It was quiet in the building but the neighborhood was considered questionable even back then.

andym

about 10 years ago

My parents would always do the laundry in that building. I remember sitting on the plastic benches listening to bad 70's music. We also went into the St Vincent store quite often and purchased trinkets and knick knacks. I bought the paperback of  Jaws and was pretty excited because it had the naked lady swimming on the cover. I must of thought I was getting away with something at the time. Luckily, I did not develop a huge porn addiction. 

Anyway, I love that building and drive by it on my way into/out of town. I hope they don't tear it down. I think a record store would be cool. Connected with a somewhat run down coffee shop area as it seems like Duluth is devoid of such a place. I miss the old coffee shop by the NorShor before they had all the computers taking up the space.

Todd Gremmels

about 10 years ago

There was a great old meat market and store in those buildings in the late 1970s' and I used to not only cash my paycheck there but buy stuff. 

Fourth Street waas so much different back then.

Peace

Jim Myers

about 10 years ago

Were you lying on the ground from a gunshot wound when that photo was taken?

Todd Gremmels

about 10 years ago

Yes Jim it is a different place!!!

Peace

Todd

Sjixxxy

about 10 years ago

Work that Dutch Angle!

wildgoose

about 10 years ago

lol.

The angle is my attempt to get a pic from the cell phone cam without tipping off the surveyor dude.  I'm not as good at Mr. Starfire at these surreptitious photo things yet.  

ps: I figured as long as I didn't capture his face it is literally "public domain" and ok to post.  Hope that's tee-rue.

Loving the comments, I had no idea that there was a meat market there.  I mean ... uh ... an actual meat market.  As late as last summer the other kind of meat market was operating there and that is certainly NOT the kind of development I was hoping for.

Barrett

about 10 years ago

FYI: It doesn't matter if you show his face or not. He's on a public street. There is zero expectation of privacy if you're doing something in public. You are in no way invading someone's privacy if you photograph them doing something in full view of anyone and everyone.

"Public Domain" refers to copyright law, and has nothing to do with this situation.

ericswan

about 10 years ago

In the late 60's that building housed the Sunshine Shop (not to be confused with the West Duluth Cafe)run by Patsy(?)Sun and her husband. It was the first real "head" shop in Duluth. They later went on to help found the Co-op in the Chester Creek house, which later grew into the Whole Foods Co-op

The row houses across the avenue housed a large collection of hippies, freaks. musicians and various miscreants.

Professor n'Marion

about 10 years ago

I think maybe it's time to re-claim those buildings for the counter culture--I see a bandspace/alt venue that also offers wood-fired baked sourdough and free wireless access, with beverages brewed from swamp leaf tea and birchbark (I'm not being sarcastic!). (And if someone has a shoe repair sewing machine, we could use that, too.) 

Chester Creek House is still there, the Co-op is going strong. We all still need shoes. Let's make our culture anew! (Okay, I'm just a hippie from another planet, but still...doesn't that sound like an improvement over neighborhood shootings and waiting for the next failed business attempt?)

baci

about 10 years ago

Patsy's husband was Bob

wildgoose

about 10 years ago

Speedy Wienie has certainly considered such an enterprise ... such tough going in small business in this town, though.  And the last time Speedy got itself involved in a community-minded neighborhood revival, well ... it didn't turn out so good.

Thanks Mr C on the public photo clarification

tang

about 10 years ago

Ahhh, if I had a million dollars I would love to open a grungy old coffee/record/artesian bread/shoe repair shop right there!  
I'm up for the challenge!  Who's got the dough!?

Sjixxxy

about 10 years ago

If I'm rembering correctly, wasn't there a murder in that laundromat last summer?

Barrett

about 10 years ago

That's true, Sjixxxy. A man was shot and killed at the Hillside Laundry last July in an argument over $20. This building has also been the site of various crime fronts, as wildgoose alluded to in the original post above.

I too wish some legitimate and cool businesses would move in there.

Ramos

about 10 years ago

I didn't know the name of it, but the Piper Building is where much of this story took place.

Sjixxxy

about 10 years ago

Ramos, I just spent the past hour enthralled with your cab stories. Good stuff.

girlfromnorthcountry

about 10 years ago

My ex-husband lived in that building when I met him when we were dating in college.  It was a little sketchy, there were some interesting upstairs neighbors that had no problem drinking vodka with their 14 year old daughter in the middle of the day.  But they were kind.  Sometimes we would find evidence that someone had slept in his car if he left it unlocked.  I seem to remember there was a fire there at some point.  I'm sure it was ridiculously cheap.

heysme

about 10 years ago

Ramos,
I agree with Sjixxxy - spent a considerable amount of time reading your blog.
Found myself reading fast so I could possibly make the outcome of the story end positively. 
thanks for sharing!

Ramos

about 10 years ago

Sjixxxy: Thank you.

heysme: You're welcome.

friean01

about 10 years ago

I live about a block away from this location and have for the last four years. I know that there are a lot of problems with the neighborhood, but I think that it could really become a cool place where people would want to be. The fact that Sacred Heart is a block away could work in its favor as becoming a new place to "house" an art scene. I love the idea of doing to this part of Duluth what was done to Canal Park (minus the tourist traps and chain restaurants.)

wildgoose

about 10 years ago

I love Ramos' story. Love it.  Like Duluth Pulitzer love it.

As for Friean01 I urgently agree.  And yes, I do know what urgent means, but it seems closer to my real feeling than "fervent."  We don't need another summer like the last one in that block.  Never again.

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