April 22, 1959: Duluth’s Longfellow Elementary goes up in flames

On this day in Duluth in 1959, the 1891 Longfellow Elementary School at 6015 Elinor Street was destroyed by fire. The school had closed in 1956 and was left vacant, used as a storage facility for obsolete school furniture. It soon became a favorite target of vandals. In fact, just weeks before the fire school officials removed paper and other flammables from the structure, which they say was visited by vandals “every day.” Bars across its doors and windows could not keep them out, and there had already been several small fires in the building. The fire was called in by building maintenance foreman Harry Campbell just after 5 p.m. He had gone to check on the welfare of the building and “tried to enter through the front door but was forced back by a blast of heat and smoke.” The Duluth News Tribune noted that firefighters were weary even before the blaze began, having spent the two previous days fighting over sixty grass fires in the city. The four-alarm fire involved seven rigs and twelve off-duty firefighters were called back into service. Police and volunteers kept a crowd estimated at over 4,000 from getting close to the blaze—most were children. Insufficient water pressure slowed the efforts of firefighters, who had to abandon hydrants near the school and use some that were three blocks away. Once the pressure increases, three of the fire department’s hoses burst. It took five hours to get the fire under control, and in the end the building was a “burned-out shell.” Learn more about Longfellow School and other lost Duluth landmarks here.

Longfellow Elementary School. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

From the Archive: Skyline Parkway (& Seven Bridges Road)

It‘s only April and the snow is already gone. Duluthians have already taken to the great outdoors, and in this town that means hitting the parks. So this week’s dive into the archives focuses on the backbone of Duluth’s incredible park system: Skyline Parkway. Originally designed as “The Boulevard” in the late 1890s, a carriage…


Washburn House

101 Oxford Street | Architect: Unknown | Built: 1892 | Lost: ca. 1946 The Hunter’s Park neighborhood was platted in 1891 and attracted many of Duluth’s resident professionals, particularly after streetcar service began in 1892. This Queen Anne home was built a short distance from Woodland Avenue amid other Victorian-style homes. It featured a round…

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