Western Tavern/Spot Bar

This Month's Ghost Sign

Originally Published April 2013
Image: Dan Turner, Substreet.org

April’s ghost sign is on the west side of Duluth’s Western Hotel at 2801–2803 West Superior Street. The hotel opened in 1909, operated by Henry and Julia Kohnen along with P. J. Sullivan. The Kohens, who arrived in Duluth in 1892, previously operated the Bell Hotel at 7th Avenue West and Superior Street. All three owners had passed away by 1912, and after that the hotel changed hands many times before closing as a hostelry in 1980. Digging through old city directories, we believe that by the 1930s the Western Café operated out of the hotel, and after Prohibition ended, an addition was made to the west side of the building, and this became 2803 West Superior Street. Here Louis Berglund opened a shop that sold “beverages.” Robert DesMondt took over from Berglund in 1941, and in 1948 that establishment became the Western Tavern. From about 1976 to 1999 the Western Tavern operated alongside the Spot Bar before both closed. Today Mike’s Western Café continues to serve food; the building is for lease, and a sign on it indicates that its upper floors once (or may still) served as apartments. Some readers may know the Western’s history better than we do—if so, please let us know if we need to make any corrections.

This Month's Ghost Sign

4 Responses to Western Tavern/Spot Bar

  1. Tim McEvoy it is planned obsolescence as to why things don’t last as long as they use to!

  2. Thank you for researching the history of the Western Hotel. I was curious about its origins after finding out there was a baseball park, called Recreation Park, built on that site in 1891. Duluth had a minor league team in 1891 that played in the Western League (now known as the American League). I couldn’t help but wonder if the hotel’s name was related to that block’s connection with the Western League or if it is just a coincidence. I wish I knew how long the ball park occupied that site.

  3. I think it’s the brick, Tim. The paint seeps in. On wood, the paint lays more or less on top. That’s why paint peels so easily. It is amazing that these “ghost signs” don’t vanish very quickly, isn’t it.

  4. Something I don’t understand is, why is it I have to paint my house every 5 to 7 years it seems, yet paint was sold 100+ years ago that can last 100 years? Seriously, is it the brick or did they use better materials in 1909 to make paint last that long?

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