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Mystery Photo #76: 400 block of West Superior Street

The above photo, submitted by Jay Sonnenburg, shows businesses on the 400 block of West Superior Street. At right is the WEBC Radio studio. At left are the Fargusson Building, Manhattan Building and Spalding Hotel.

So, when was this photo shot? The WEBC studio was built in 1937, and the Manhattan Buildling was razed in 1941, so that’s a window the photo can be easily narrowed down to. Are there any details in the image that pin it to a tighter time frame?

Below is the best I could do creating a modern day version of the old photo without access to the roof of the Phoenix Building or a drone. Glare and reflection from the Skywalk window mare the view, but the perspective is better than I could get on the ground.

Today the entire northwest side of the street is the Maurices headquarters. On the southeast side the Fargusson still exists; it was renamed the Stanley Center in 2004. The Ordean Building is at the far end of the block where the Spalding once stood. Another mystery: Does the building in the middle, at 406-418 W. Superior St., have a name?

11 Comments

Matthijs

about 3 weeks ago

That middle space may be the most mysterious location of the mystery photo. Part of it was originally occupied by the Frerker Buidling, which was built in 1902 in the space between the Manhattan Building and the Spalding Hotel.

The space that belonged to the Manhattan Building and the Frerker Building was replaced with the current Northland Building in 1946, presumably named after the Northland Greyhound Lines which had its passenger waiting area in the adjacent and remodeled Fargusson building. 

In the Mystery Photo, however, the upper stories of the Frerker Building appear to be gone and there is what looks like some form of temporary scaffolding in place on the ground floor. The Manhattan and the Frerker were replaced by one building. Did they both come down around the same time? In any event, if the Frerker came down after 1937, that would narrow the timeframe. If it came down any earlier with its ground floor façade sitting in disrepair for some time, then I suppose it would be of no help at all in narrowing the time frame for the photo.

Paul Lundgren

about 3 weeks ago

Good eye, Matthijs. I didn't notice the missing Frerker Building in the mystery photo and in other images I thought it was part of the Manhattan Building.

So, indeed, it seems the photo shows the Frerker nearing the latter stages of its removal, which might lead to better pinpointing the year this photo was shot.

Gina Temple-Rhodes

about 3 weeks ago



The courtyard of the Manhattan Building seems very different than it's original shape, shown here. I wonder if that change can be pinpointed?

Matthijs

about 3 weeks ago

This may be as much an additional side-mystery as any sort of help in narrowing down the date, but the Boznu's sign in the lower left corner of the photo would seem to have some direct connection to this token, but the address is for the other side of the street. Photos from that side of the street show Delmonico Restaurant at that address, which matches with the other name on the token. One reading of the token could be that Joe Boznu operated a newsstand out the Delmonico restaurant. If that is the case, it looks like he took his business across the street at some point. A city directory might be able to say if that move happened after 1937.
 

Gina Temple-Rhodes

about 3 weeks ago



Joe Boznu seems to have outlasted the Delmonico Restaurant and become a jewelry shop owner, it appears (look to the right side of the Lyceum at 419 W. Superior St.)

"Boznu will trust you" ... there is also some evidence that he is linked to a curio store that also shows in that earlier photo of the Manhattan building, owned by Louis Oreck. They were both part of the Jewish community in Duluth at that time.

RightElbow

about 3 weeks ago

The current-day 406-418 W Superior is the Northland Building.

Gina Temple-Rhodes

about 3 weeks ago

One more, as I am starting to feel like I am time traveling down this street: 



This image was taken the same day as the above referenced Manhattan building photos. This one is listed as a possible 1923 date, while the Manhattan photo is listed with a possible 1900 date. Wild speculation happening there... I think it is somewhere between those dates. But you can see the building on the corner was still a one-story building with some odd stuff going on with the roof, and by the Mystery photo there is clearly a new taller building there. Is that the Fargasson?

Paul Lundgren

about 3 weeks ago

It looks a lot like the modern Fargusson/Gardner building to me; but clearly a significant remodel happened at some point. 

The St. Louis County Assessor lists the building as constructed in 1915. Zenith City Online notes the original Fargusson Blocks were gutted by fire in 1892. The section at 402-404 W. Superior St. was rebuilt in 1896, "but without any of its original design features. It was later extended west over the footprint of the first Fargusson block and converted into Duluth’s Greyhound Bus Station, operating as such until 1983."

So, maybe the 402-404 part of the existing building went up in 1896 and the 406-408 went up in 1915. Which would date every photo on this page as post-1915.

Matthijs

about 3 weeks ago

In looking over all the rich detail in the photos that Gina linked to, I realized that I had missed something rather obvious in the original mystery of the mystery photo. That photo is from somewhere between 1937 and 1941 based on the buildings, but the answer to the exact year is likely to be found not in the details of the buildings, but of the street. 

Duluth replaced its streetcars with buses in the 1930s, with the last streetcar running in 1939, right in the middle of the year range for the photo. I asked my friend Jonathan Kibrick (I promised him I’d give him credit in my post) who has a rather encyclopedic knowledge of the technical details of transit systems to look at the photo and he immediately noticed two things.

The first is very specific: the two small objects on the wire in the bottom of the photo belong to the overhead contact system of a trolley bus using an Ohio Brass standard insulator set on a stringer with a 2-foot mid-span spreader bar and there is no wiring visible for a streetcar. This overhead contact system is more visible in this photo of the WEBC building from 1942. This means that when the mystery photo was taken the streetcars had already been replaced by trolley buses. A photo taken in 1940 from the end of the block shows one of these trolley buses.

Streetcar service in Duluth was discontinued in 1939, but looking at my Twin Ports by Trolley book it seems that Superior Street may have changed from streetcar to trolley bus with the conversion of the Lester Park line in 1934. A lot of different lines ran along Superior Street, however, so I’m not sure that 1934 was the last year of all Superior Street streetcar service. If it was, it only means the photo is from after 1934, which we already knew. 

His second observation seems to be more useful. There appear to be parking meters on both sides of the street. The world’s first parking meter was installed in Oklahoma in 1935. Minneapolis installed its first parking meter five years later in 1940. In Duluth, a photo of First Street in 1940 shows parking meters but a photo of the same street in May of 1938 shows no meters, although tear gas is obscuring the end of the street. 

If parking meters came to Duluth at the same time as Minneapolis, that would shorten the possible time range of the photo to 1940-1941. A better understanding of when streetcar service ended on Superior Street might confirm that.
 

Gina Temple-Rhodes

about 2 weeks ago

The mystery photo date (1930s to '40s) has been solved by the Boznu's Jewelry store. I believe it was 1941, maybe right before the Manhattan building was torn down. 



This is from the City Directory in 1946. Mrs. Esther Bonzu is running the store with Ethel Greenblatt. Joseph Bonzu (of the early Bonzu will trust you" store that was across the street at one time) died in 1943. 

I believe this is the location of the Boznus store sign you can see in the lower left of that photo.

The 1941 City Directory is the first one that shows a Boznu's at that address. 



1940 City Directory still showed him at 316 W Superior St. (this was the location he is listed at for a while previously)



Joseph and Esther (Shapiro) married in 1914, and had one son, Sherman, who died in 1960. Esther died in 1966, and they are all buried in Tifereth Israel Cemetery outside Duluth. 

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