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Mystery Photo #84: Building near Duluth Arena

Sitting awkwardly between the Duluth Arena and the Radisson Hotel in this photo by Perry Gallagher is a seven-story building that can’t be far from demolition. What was it?

Minnesota Reflections vaguely dates this image as “1974?” but the photo must be from between 1970 and 1972. The Radisson was constructed in 1970 and the Ordean Building was completed in 1973, and there is no sign of the Ordean Building in this photo.

Here’s how Minnesota Reflections captions the image:

A band is playing on the steps of the Federal Building in the Civic Center. The Federal Building is at the right, the St. Louis County Courthouse is behind you and a little to the left. Duluth’s City Hall is not visible, but is at the far left, facing the Federal Building. The cylindrical building is the Radisson Hotel. The Arena Auditorium is just in front of the Aerial Bridge. The span is up: a vessel is either outbound or inbound. Cars and pedestrians on either side of the bridge must wait. They are being “bridged” or stopped by the vessel traffic. On the other side of the tree and the child on the bicycle is the civic center pool and fountain.

So … about the mystery building.

My wild guess at an address would be in the 400 range of West Railroad Street.

Below is a zoom-in on an older aerial photo from before the West Fifth Street bridge was built, showing our mystery building surrounded by other buildings. Feel free to name those buildings, too. Because every mystery leads to new mysteries.

20 Comments

Paul Lundgren

about 6 months ago

Tony Dierckins has chimed in with a theory. He believes the building to the right of our mystery building is the 1903 F. A. Patrick Woolen Mills at 302 S. Fifth Ave. If so, our mystery building from the top photo is Leithead Drug, Tony notes. The buildings in the foreground of the bottom photo would include wholesalers Stone-Ordean-Wells at 203-211 S. Fifth Ave. (at left) and Kelley-Howe-Thomson at 301–315 S. Fifth Ave. (at right). 

There's more on F. A. Patrick, and other wholesalers or "jobbing houses" on zenithcity.com.



F. A. Patrick Woolen Mills building.



In this postcard image of the Warehouse District or "Wholesale District," Patrick Woolen Mills is the first tall building to the left of Fifth Avenue West. Next to it on the left, partially shown, is our mystery building, Leithead Drug.

Ghist1

about 6 months ago

I love this picture; such a combination of old and new and empty space left from demolition of historic buildings like the Spalding Hotel. I don't immediately agree with Tony's proposal... there seems to be the wrong stone Depot in front of those buildings in the red circled image, and there is no small triangular decoration/cornice at the top of the building. It does seem to have words on the front, but I haven't been able to read it in any version of that photo.

Ghist1

about 6 months ago



Aha. Here's a photo from likely the same day at a slightly different angle; the second building in on the right is indeed the same building. It has words on the back, all I can read is "Co" on the end. 

Ghist1

about 6 months ago



Also, that above link from the 1963 reference photo also includes the Flame restaurant at the end of Fifth Avenue West. That building existed until the 1990s when it was torn down to build the Great Lakes Aquarium. I worked in that old building when it was the Lake Superior Center in 1996 ... there was still old Flame restaurant stuff around.

Matthijs

about 6 months ago

As GHST1 noted, the writing on top of the mystery building is not clearly legible in the picture that he linked to, but if you zoom in on the writing on the top of the building to the left, it says F.A. Patrick & Co. This building also looks to be about twice the size of the building in Paul's comments, but as the front half matches in both pictures, it may have been added on to by the time of the later picture. 

Is the claim that F.A. Patrick & Co. also owned the mystery building to the right, or is the mystery building still a mystery?

Bob L

about 6 months ago

I can tell you that Northern Drug was the buildings occupant in the early 1970s. I ordered and picked up five gallon drums of sodium silicate from that location for my employer. The stuff was used as an adhesive for cardboard boxes.

Tony D.

about 6 months ago

Matthijs, I don't think there is a claim that FA Patrick owned the other building. Building at right was built as Leithead Drug, which as Bob L. indicates became Northern Drug. Depot was Omaha Road Freight Depot.

Ghist1

about 6 months ago



Yep, the mystery building was Northern Drug Co.; the sign can be seen at the edge of this photo.



It was on the now-gone Commerce Street, which apparently used to exist where the current Railroad street was redirected during the Urban Renewal projects and building of the Arena, etc. It was named the Northern Drug Company at least from this photo in 1925 (?)  through 1958 when it still appeared in the City Directory. I can check newer directories later. My main question: Why did that one building persist for so long when most of the other buildings around it were long gone?



The clip above about the new Leithead Drug Co. is from the 1906 Merck Report. 

Matthijs

about 6 months ago

Thanks for the clarifacation Tony. I mistakenly thought (and perhaps GHST1 as well) that the picture of the F.A. Patrick & Co. building that Paul posted in his first comment was supposed to be the mystery building but I understand now that you were using it as a reference point to identify its neighbor (Leithead Drug, later Northern Drug).

According to a listing in the Bygones section of the DNT, the city completed demolition of the Northern Drug Co. on Dec. 29, 1977, as part of the Gateway Urban Renewal project. 

As GHST1 and others noted, most of the other buildings that were a part of Duluth’s urban renewal had already been demolished and replaced by this time and that would make it one of the last buildings to be taken down as a result of the Gateway Project. But apparently not the last. 



Here’s a photo from 1975 (note that the completed Ordean Building is visible in the photo) where both the Drug Co. building and its smaller neighboring buildings are still standing.



And then here’s a picture thought to be from 1982. If you look directly under the nose of the fighter jet, the smaller buildings that were next to F.A. Patrick & Co. and the Drug Company are still occupying a corner of the DECC parking lot. I couldn’t find any information about when they were finally demolished, but it seems like these two small buildings must have been the last casualties of the Gateway Project.

As a technical question, there used to be button for attaching a single image with a comment. That is now gone, but other people are still posting images with their comments. Is there a new way of doing this? I like to include cropped sections of the historical photos with my comments.

Paul Lundgren

about 6 months ago

Apologies about the photo upload situation. That button mysteriously disappeared around Nov. 20. We're still scratching our heads about why it isn't showing up and working. The plugin seems to be installed properly and hasn't been modified to our knowledge.

So ... I've been adding images to some of the comments on the back end. Any PDD user with photo uploading permission can do it the way I do it, it's just more complicated than using the old plugin. Basically, the way to do it is go into the dashboard like you are creating a post, upload the image you want, make sure you are in text mode, copy the HTML code of the photo and paste it into a comment box.

We do intend to fix the comment photo upload issue, but we're stalling because it will involve paying an outside contractor money we don't have.

Paul Lundgren

about 6 months ago

Also, the confusion about the two buildings was a misunderstanding and poor translation on my part of what Tony told me. So those who were led astray by what I had written were led astray because I was astray.

I have recast the language of my original comment to make that clearer.

Matthijs

about 6 months ago

That makes sense – thank you for doing all the additional work of inserting the images and links.


 
And to add just a little more to the Mystery Photo discussion, Minnesota Reflections has a particularly crisp photo of most of the buildings mentioned here and a Flickr page dedicated to Twin Ports rail has a nice street level view of the old intersection of Commerce Street and 5th Ave West.

Paul Lundgren

about 6 months ago

Damn, that photo sorts everything out nicely!

Tony D.

about 6 months ago

Nice work, everyone!

Ghist1

about 6 months ago

Yeah, sorry, I was skimming and missed the original note about Leithhead Drugs. 



Here is another photo that is kind of beautiful in its own right, but also shows some serious signage on the buildings in question. While researching this I also came upon official complaints from the early 1900s that “Leithhead’s Stomach Bitters” products etc were largely alcohol so their popularity at drug stores was creating quite the loophole in prohibition states like North Dakota.

And yes, this is Gina with a new username, sorry for confusion.

Bob L

about 6 months ago

My old brain had a random thought... I'm thinking that the reason for not tearing down some of those buildings might have been  that one of them may have housed a sub station for Minnesota Power and Light and it took some time to get the building(s) ready for demolition.

Matthijs

about 6 months ago

Your theory is most likely correct. According to the 1958 directory posted by GHIST1, there was indeed a Minnesota Power and Light sub station at 410 W. Commerce St., which would have put it right in that row of last remaining buildings.

Ghist1

about 6 months ago



I visited the city directories and that Minnesota Power and Light Substation appeared at its 410 W. Commerce St. location every year from 1975 all the way until 1990! It was the last building there by that time. By 1991, West Commerce Street no longer appeared at all in the directory. This image on Minnesota Reflections shows the electrical aspect of the building quite well. 

Ghist1

about 6 months ago

Clarification: I don't know when the Substation began appearing in the Directories, the earliest one I've checked was 1958, and I start researching 1975 directory expecting it to disappear sooner than 1990. The Northern Drug Company building does indeed disappear in 1977 from the directory, as confirmed by the Bygones blurb MATTHIJS posted earlier.

Matthijs

about 6 months ago



Because everyone put in enough work here to make the PDD Quiz of January 2019, I thought I would add in one more picture that allows for a rather complete summary of the disappearance of all these buildings over a 30-year period.

In this photo from Minnesota Reflections, you can see that the F.A. Patrick Building is gone while the Duluth Arena is under construction and all the older buildings are still standing.

That photo and then all the information above results in the following timeline:

1963–65: F.A. Patrick Building is demolished.
1965–75: Wholesalers’ buildings along South Fifth Avenue West are demolished.
1977: Northern Drug Company building is demolished.
1990-91: Minnesota Power substation, the last building on Commerce Street, is removed.
1998: The Flame / Lake Superior Center building, the last building on South Fifth Avenue West of the railroad tracks, is demolished.

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