April 9, 1887: Ground is broken for Duluth’s Spalding Hotel

The Spalding Hotel photographed in the 1890s. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

On this day in Duluth in 1887, ground was broken for the construction of the Spalding Hotel at 424 West Superior Street. It took two years after ground was broken in April of 1887 for tradesmen to complete the massive, two-hundred-room Spalding Hotel, built to rival the St. Louis Hotel one block east. Although the hotel’s investors included such prominent Duluthians as R. S. Munger, G. G. Hartley, Owen Fargusson, Luther Mendenhall, and George Spencer, it was named for the group’s president, William W. Spalding, a Pennsylvania native who first came to Duluth in 1869 with his brother I. C. Together the Spalding brothers built a general store on the southeast corner of Superior Street and Fifth Avenue West, the same spot on which the Spalding would rise twenty years later. Standing seven stories high over Superior Street and eight stories over Michigan Street, the Spalding dominated downtown Duluth when it was first constructed. Built of brown sandstone, red brick, and terra cotta, the Spalding’s top floor was capped with a mansard roof covered with tile shingles and featured many dormers and round corner towers. Its architect, Chicago’s James J. Egan, was nationally known for his church and hotel designs. When it opened, the Spalding was described as an “artistic blending of Gothic, Corinthian, and Egyptian styles.” By the time it was set to be demolished in September 1963 as part of Duluth’s Gateway Urban Renewal Project, the Spalding had become a residential hotel. The Ordean Building now stands on the Spalding site. You can read a much more complete history of the hotel here , Mr. Spalding here, and the house he built for his wife, Electra, here.

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