April 5, 1993: Duluth City Council accepts site of ruined building from UMD to create a park

On this day in Duluth in 1993, the Duluth City Council passed a resolution of intent to accept donation of the site of the ruins of the 1901 Duluth Normal School from the University of Minnesota Duluth. The building, completed in 1901, was destroyed by an arson fire on February 23, 1993. It was designed by Duluth architects firm Palmer, Hall, and Hunt and, according to historian Jill Fisher, “originally housed all functions of the school including administrative offices, library, laboratories, classrooms, auditorium, and gymnasium. Additions on the east and west section of the building were completed in 1909 and 1915 were designed by W. A. Hunt, successor to Palmer, Hall, and Hunt. In 1926 an auditorium/library was added to the rear of the building.” The Normal School became the Duluth State Teachers’ College in 1921 and, in 1947, the University of Minnesota Duluth. During the 1950s the campus moved to new buildings on a former dairy farm and the building became known as “Old Main.” In 1985 the building closed and was vacated, awaiting renovation into apartments when vandals set it ablaze and gutted its interior. Following its acceptance of the property, the city cleared most of the building’s ruins but left the arched entryways that once led to the first floor standing. Except for the three arches of its main entryway, the school was demolished. The arches are now the central features of Old Main Park.

The ruins of Old Main photographed in 2009 by Dennis O’Hara. (Image: Northern Images)

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