St. Louis County Jail designs approved in 1921 … sort of

One hundred years ago today — May 11, 1921 — the Duluth Herald published a story about plans for a new St. Louis County Jail. The building that would eventually be constructed looks somewhat similar to the drawing here, but there were numerous changes to the plan.

Zenith City Online provides a detailed account of the history of the building, but the short version of the story is that construction finally started in December 1922 and it opened on July 27, 1924. The building operated as a jail until 1995 and continued to be used by the county sheriff’s office until 2007. Minneapolis developer Grant Carlson bought the building in 2010 and made repairs to it, but has not announced a reuse plan.

The text of the 1921 article reads:

Preliminary plans for new county jail are accepted by county board; condemnation of lots

Preliminary plans for the new county jail which is to be erected west of the county courthouse and facing Second street were presented to the county commissioners this morning by Holstead & Sullivan, architects, and with the exception of a few minor details were approved by the board. The jail, which is to be 114 feet in width and 140 feet deep, will be of classic design and in keeping with the facing of the county courthouse. Its capacity will be 326 people. Prisoners will be taken to the courthouse from the jail through a tunnel.

The first floor, which will be on a level with the rear of the courthouse, will have a kitchen, bakery and laundry, There will be no cells on this floor. On the second there will be cells for eighteen women, eighteen juvenile cells, three detention wards and insane wards. The third floor will have forty cells for men, three detention wards and two hospital wards. The fourth floor will contain exactly the same number of rooms. All the floors will have attorney’s and jailer’s rooms. There will also be a dining room, workroom and schoolroom for the prisoners.

From the ground to the top floor, there will be a center open court, 53 by 60 feet. Recreation rooms for the prisoners, sewing rooms and rooms for the matron and other women attendants will be on the second floor.

The probable cost of the building has not been estimated entirely, the architects said today.

Charles E. Adams, special counsel for the county, was directed this morning to institute condemnation proceedings to acquire the use of lot 89 and lot 91, in block 28, Duluth, Third division, as “the county is unable to purchase said land or any part thereof at a reasonable price.”

Former St. Louis County Jail in 2021.

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