The Rentola


Here are two historic photos of the Rentola, a Finnish boarding house at 4 N. 59th Ave. W., in West Duluth. The top photo is from Karl Hagglund, whose grandmother was a maid at the Rentola. The next photo is from 1961, courtesy of the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center. So the story goes, there was an old steam house nearby where Rentola residents took saunas.


In the 1980s the Rentola was remodeled and shed its ethnic identity, becoming a regular old apartment house, as seen in the 2010 photo below.



Paul Lundgren

about 13 years ago

The building permit for the Rentola was issued in the summer of 1918.

Hillsider Newspaper editor

about 13 years ago

Aw, they took out the big porch and the windows.


about 13 years ago

Where do you go about finding building permits like this one?  I'd like to know some info on my house if its out there somewhere.

Paul Lundgren

about 13 years ago

I'm not sure how far back they go at City Hall, but the one above is from the July 7, 1918, Duluth News Tribune.

Barrett Chase

about 13 years ago

My sister lived in the Rentola in the 1980s. Her apartment was basically one huge empty rectangle with one tiny window. It's a really crappy place, and I was surprised to hear it was remodeled in the 80s, because it seemed run down even then. Probably because they used cheap materials and there was a lot of rental turnover. 

The residents all said the place was incredibly haunted. I was kind of scared to be there as a kid.

My mom said that when she was a kid in the 40s, it was basically a "flophouse," full of transients and drunks. It had a reputation for violence and seediness.

In the 90s, I delivered phone books there, and it seemed like all the residents at that time were mentally handicapped. I don't know if there was some type of program in place there, or if they were just a lot of handicapped people taking advantage of the cheap rent.

Paul Lundgren

about 11 years ago

It's nice that all three photos include one automobile from their respective era.


about 11 years ago

Check out that stone foundation. Awesome! Must be bluestone. I lived in a house on Observation Hill in what some said was a Polish enclave back in the day.  The house was as desecrated with modern add-ons, decks, etc. as much as they ruined the Rentola, but it had an awesome stone foundation.

I was looking at and a photo of the impressive Spalding Hotel. It incorporated sculptural stone ornamentation and a combo of stone and brick construction.

What an architectural gem. Pity it was torn down.

Wouldn't it be nice to see such fine buildings in Duluth again? There's an abundance of stone that could be utilized in construction. We just need stone cutters. Now there's a job!

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