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Denfeld engraving still on MacArthur?

As most people know, the southern wing of the old MacArthur Elementary School was built in 1915 as Denfeld High School. (The modern Denfeld opened in 1926 and the old Denfeld became West Junior; MacArthur was built in 1957; West closed and became part of MacArthur in 1983; MacArthur was replaced with a new building this past fall). The photo above is of the 56th Avenue West entrance to the old MacArthur, which has always been considered the back door.

The section of the building that protrudes out and comprises the rear entrance is not original. It was built in 1994 to provide an elevator for improved handicap accessibility. There was a stone block over the entryway, covered by this addition, that read “Robert E. Denfeld High School.”

If anyone has old photos of the entryway, please post them. The old MacArthur is in the process of being gutted and prepared for demolition, so if that entryway exists under the current one and anyone would like it to be saved and either left on the current site as a monument to the old Denfeld or moved to the current Denfeld campus, the time to act is drawing short.

Update: All evidence points to the conclusion that the old Denfeld block was removed in 1994. Details in the comments.

20 Comments

Chris

about 8 years ago

Toward the bottom of this page is a picture of an entrance.  It says it's Central Ave entrance, though.  It's not a wide enough shot to see where it's shot from though.

Jpersch

about 8 years ago

What are they doing with the property once it has been demolished?

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

Just for fun, here's an older, undated photo from the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center.



Again, both of these photos are of the Central Avenue entrance, not the 56th Avenue West one. And that's Ely Elementary School on the right, the predecessor of MacArthur.

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

Here's a modern shot of the Central Avenue entrance from last summer.



For some reason I want to say they knocked out the old Central Avenue entry when they put in this one, which goes back at least to the early 1980s. Below is a shot from the spring of 1985.



(I can't really tell who anyone is in the photo, except the kid in the yellow cap has got to be Jimmy Maas.)

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

The land will be green space for the foreseeable future, but the long-term plan is to turn it into an athletic field, if/when funding allows.

Chris, that photo is indeed of the Central Avenue entrance. Here's a shot from the 1940s or 1950s of the same entrance, courtesy of the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center.

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

What is the best way to refer to this "stone block"? It's not an archway.

TimK

about 8 years ago

It is a maw.

Roni Town

about 8 years ago

When the elevator addition was constructed, signage for Denfeld High School was discovered on the 56th Avenue west entrance and was photographed for the News Tribune, I believe.  Building engineers should have some information.

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

Roger Nesje has come through with what must be late 1980s photos of the 56th Avenue West entrance, which shows "MacArthur West" above the entrance before the elevator was added.





The "Robert E. Denfeld" carving is still there in these shots; the MacArthur sign is over it. Was that whole entrance ripped up when the addition was built, or could the Denfeld carving still be there, hiding under some drywall or something?

johnm

about 8 years ago

Maybe the district will select a demolition contractor that will give more than lip service to architectural salvage recovery from this building.

zra

about 8 years ago

Big + to Architectural Antiques!

dbb

about 8 years ago

In general those old stone lintels with names carved into them were the structural support for the wall above the door. It is unlikely that it was removed for the elevator addition unless significant modification was made to the doorway of the existing building.

Roni Town

about 8 years ago

I'm looking closely at the similarities in photos, and I see narrow windows off to either side of the doorway on 56th.  In the newer photo with the elevator, there is a narrow window to the left of the new construction and the place where the MacArthur sign previously hung...the elevator addition appears to be in front of that space.  The lamps and rosettes look to be the same as the old photo which is identified as the Central Avenue entrance... is it possible that each entrance looked like the other?  There's a ramp at 56th rather than stairs, but that may not have always been so.  This is quite an intriguing mystery!  Bob Collard was the engineer when the elevator was installed.  Wonder if he would have any answers.

Andrew

about 8 years ago



Yes, the 56th Avenue West sign existed; you can see it in photos from the News Tribune from 1994.

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

So we know that ...

* Both entrances had Denfeld engravings originally.

* The 56th Ave. W. entrance still had one as of 1994, though it was in rough shape (thanks Andrew)!

What we don't know is whether the engravings still exist somewhere, either under the building alterations or somewhere else. And it seems more likely that the 56th Ave. W. one might still be part of the building than the Central Avenue one. So we're getting somewhere.

Lojasmo

about 8 years ago

Dbb got it.  It's a lintel.

Look at the architectural records.  Should be on file at the county records division.

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

Here's the word from Kerry Leider, property and risk manager for Duluth Public Schools:

Bob Swanson, local stone salvage expert, investigated the Laura Mac building to try to determine if any of the Robert E. Denfeld stone plaques were still on the building hidden by additions. Bob's investigation concluded these no longer exist. I will notify the demolition contractor, once identified, to make them aware of the potential this name stone is still in place and request if they are in fact discovered during demolition they offer us a proposal to salvage them and turn them over to the district.
By the way, demolition of the old MacArthur won't happen for at least another two months, Leider said. The Duluth School Board is expected to choose a contractor for the demolition on Jan. 17, and there will be a month's worth of asbestos abatement work to be done.

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

Here are two special somewhat-related bonus images courtesy of X-Communication. It's the old Ely Elementary School, from before Denfeld/West/MacArthur existed.



Paul Lundgren

about 7 years ago

Here's the front entrance in 1967, from the West Junior High School yearbook West-Word.

Paul Lundgren

about 3 years ago

Laura MacArthur Elementary School

Just came across this older shot of the entryway before the West Junior sign went up.

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