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Last Look at Three West Duluth Structures

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Anticipating the demolition of the Duluth Motel and Star Enterprises in West Duluth, I took a few photos two weeks ago. Both buildings are rubble now.

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Does anyone have any interesting Duluth Motel stories? I think the only time I ever went in was to deliver a stack of phone books in 1992.

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I have better memories of Denfeld’s smokestack, which is in the background of this picture and is in the process of being torn down as well. It used to be the place where human smokestacks — the various students who smoked cigarettes — would hang out when I was a kid. (Smokers have had to go across the street since the mid 1980s, when Denfeld became a tobacco-free campus.)

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I vaguely remember using the fax machine at Star Enterprises in the late 1990s and thinking the fee seemed outrageous. That’s about it.

15 Comments

Jibbers

about 10 years ago

My friend's parents ran the Duluth Motel since around 1993 or so.  They were very hard working people and never got any time off.  One time late at night after some drinkin' we convinced said friend to let us stay in one of the rooms, which his parents did not allow him to do.  Come morning his dad wasn't quite sure why there was an extra guest there.  He called the room and was suspicious but did not want to straight out start yelling at us in case we were legitimate guests.  After we got off the phone we tore out of there before he had a chance to walk over to the room to bust us...

wildgoose

about 10 years ago

I didn't know that this was happening.  The other day I was getting gas at the ICO across from the new walgreens and I pondered that smokestack for a bit.  Smoke stacks are viewed as an ugly remnant of our industrial past when viewed through a modern lens ... and that smokestack does overwhelm the clearly beautiful clock tower.  But ... even the smokestack was beautiful the brick work and the design elements show great workmanship.  It is obvious that the Western Duluth really wanted that building to be a thing of beauty for the entire community, especially the kids. And, I think they took significant pride in the smokestack itself, too.  I mean, sure the boiler is out of date today, but then it was probably the most safe and efficient building heater that money could buy.  And from a lay person's perspective it looks like they may have wanted to trumpet that some... possibly as a symbol of progress or technological achievement.  I hope that with the "upgraded" building there is half as much quality material, attention to detail, and care put in as we saw on the original. We are farther removed from the days of recent immigrants with the generations old artisan construction skills that we were blessed with a hundred years ago.  But ... we can hope enough of that skill and pride is left in this town to allow for an "improvement" that does justice to the original.

wildgoose

about 10 years ago

So caught up in my own rambling, jumbled prose that I forgot to say:  Great story, Jibbers.  Also, I sent a fax from that place in the 90s, too, and thought the price was exorbitant.  

Also:  Thanks for posting another great photo essay, Paul. These are always a treat to see. Beauty + Thought + History & Culture (Hi, Lo, and in between, that is) all in a local package.  Keep 'em coming.

hbh1

about 10 years ago

So, Paul, d'you think they got the proper permits to alter an historical landmark?

tony

about 10 years ago

I drove by this area last night and was totally surprised that those buildings were gone. I had no idea that was happening. It's weird how much West Duluth has changed in the past ten years or so. It's confusing. I keep wanting to go get free pizza samples at Super Valu and sit on the "away" side at PSS.

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

HBH1, Denfeld is not on the National Register of Historic Places. Perhaps one of the main reasons it isn't is that everyone thinks it already is.

So, I would guess all the proper permits are in order.

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

Speaking of history, I caught this old machine smoking its way along Grand Avenue in Riverside today.

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I wasn't quick enough to adjust the camera for its blazing speed.

edgeways

about 10 years ago

There were four or five of those types of cars chugging along upper Woodland yesterday. In hindsight it probably was for Woodland Days.

Barrett Chase

about 10 years ago

The kids who hung out by the smokestack were referred to as "chimney creatures."

The Doog

about 10 years ago

I've always liked the awning on the Star building. Was it once a supper club or lounge?

Jim M.

about 10 years ago

Bay View Elementary used to have a chimney similar to the one they are dismantling at Denfeld.  When I went there in the early '80s, lightening struck it sending large bricks flying all over the neighborhood.

Dulusion

about 10 years ago

When I went to Denfeld, smoking was allowed out the doors by the Chimney. The people who smoked out there were called the "Chimney Gang." Those of us who were into throwing pots in ceramics were called the "Dirt Bag Subculture" ... a name given to us by a cranky old teacher who's name escapes me right now (this was the 1970s and we smoked more than cigs by that chimney).

Jim

about 9 years ago

The Star building was a restaurant many years ago ... in the late 1950s or early 60s.

-Berv

about 9 years ago

Luckily there are three good tobacco stores in West Duluth for the high school smokers to choose from.

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago



Here's what might be the first photo ever shot of the Denfeld smokestack, courtesy of Tim Utt, whose grandfather worked on its construction.

Another probable first: One of those workers is likely the first person to smoke at the Denfeld smokestack.

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