Photo from the Facebooks by James Gittemeier.
Goodbye old building. Say hi for me to House of Donuts when you get to old-building heaven.
According to the 1974 book "Duluth's Legacy, Volume One: Architecture," the building was built in 1889 as the Henry Halkam Store and Apartments, architect unknown. I for one am going to miss that Moorish dome on the corner, one of the last (or the last?) such domes in the city. (The 1889 Temple Opera Block had one until about 1940, and there were three on the 1904 Masonic Temple; both buildings were built by Duluth's Masons).
I grew up around the corner from that building and have a rather fuzzy early childhood memory of my first time in the pawnshop. I remember feeling immediately uncomfortable upon entering because the interior of the shop was so old and rather dimly lit and what they sold was old too, which was not like the stores that I was used to. Someone in the shop explained to me how the pawn system worked and I remember being very worried that all those people wouldn’t be able to get their important things back. There was something small that I liked, but I didn’t ask for it because I was scared that the real owner would come looking for me. Perhaps as a result of that experience, I always felt a bit apprehensive around that building. I wasn’t consciously frightened of it but I was always very much aware of its rather heavy and dark presence when walking by. I guess that’s why I’m a bit surprised by how sad I felt after seeing that it was torn down. While I don’t think I want to argue that its existence beautified the neighborhood in a traditional sense, I would argue that it belonged to the neighborhood and that the neighborhood is poorer for its absence. Maybe as much as being sad, I guess I was surprised that it could be torn down. It seemed like it had always been there (being built in 1889 would actually make it one of the original neighborhood buildings) and that it always would be there. The unaging, uniformly gray facade put it more in the category of rock than building for me. As the picture above clearly shows, that was definitely a misclassification. While I understand the challenges involved with finding investors for the adaptive reuse of somewhat ominous old buildings, I wish that would have worked out here.
I hope that the comment I made in the original post didn't come across as crass. I believe that buildings have souls, they are one way we engage with our environment. They contain us and our life experience. Duluth has a rich soul, in part because of it's architectural legacy. The Duluth Preservation Alliance has written about this building.
Thanks for highlighting the Moorish dome, TonyD. Here's another on Superior Street.
I certainly didn’t consider it crass. I think taking the time and effort to create the post speaks for itself and appreciate being made aware of the demolition. From what very little I can find online about the building, it seems like it was structurally sound. I understand that it had sat vacant for some time and that there are some old buildings whose historic exteriors mask a seemingly insurmountable backlog of deferred maintenance that becomes even more expensive to fix every day that it isn’t addressed, but does anyone know if that was the case here? Or is a donation to the Duluth Preservation Alliance in order in the hope they will have sufficient resources to save other historically significant buildings, including whatever Moorish domes are still left in the city?
It's too bad. That building was highlighted as potentially eligible for local landmark status in the Central Hillside Architecture Survey done a few years ago. The more we chip away at our historic neighborhoods the more we lose cultural/historic integrity.
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https://vimeo.com/226030010 Video by Spencer Nelson.
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