The 1881 Charles & Mary Johnson House

This Month's Past & Present Pic

Originally published August 2014
Bottom image: Jim Davis. | Top Image from the University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections. You can view the original image here.

August’s Past & Present Pic by Jim Davis takes us to 120 North 4th Avenue West, site of today’s Government Services Center, which from 1881 to 1907 was the location of the Charles F. and Mary Johnson Home. In 1871, barely two years after arriving in Duluth, Charles F. Johnson wrote in his diary, “I have hung myself on the future prosperity of this young city, and it is not pleasant to think that I may be destined to hang here like a scarecrow on a bean pole, a warning to young adventurers… and as for failing, I will not fail, and be it through thick or thin, I will have a castle on Lake Superior yet!” Johnson indeed thrived in Duluth, and in 1881 built his “castle” along Fourth Avenue West in downtown Duluth. (By the way, the dog in the top photo is Johnson’s English Setter, Snap.). Read more about Charles Johnson and his house here. And catch up on all of Jim’s Past & Present photographs here.

This Month's Past & Present Pic

2 Responses to The 1881 Charles & Mary Johnson House

  1. It just gets worse and worse. Duluth should have some kind of person/group/advocate that “okays” the style/architecture of the buildings that go up so that it fits into the hill or area. It seems as though it’s never a consideration nowadays but it’s clear it was long ago.

  2. Charles Johnson was a supporter of the young David Ericson (1869-1946) who would become the most celebrated visual artist of early Duluth. Ericson was also a Swedish immigrant, coming here in 1971. Johnson and other Duluthians raised funds to send the talented young artist to New York, where he studied at the Art Students League and soon made a name for himself illustrating magazines like Life, Saturday Evening Post and Youth’s Companion. Ericson later painted a wonderful portrait of Johnson.

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