129–131 East 1st Street | Architect: Oliver G. Traphagen | Built: 1887 | Extant, uninhabitable
Oliver Traphagen designed the six townhouses that made up Pastoret Terrace in the Romanesque Revival style of architecture, which would essentially become his “trademark look” for buildings in Duluth. Built by Michael Pastoret, the two-and-a-half story brick building featured brownstone-trimmed windows, wrought iron details on the roof, small entry porches, and a round corner tower with a tall finial. When construction finished, Pastoret advertised his new townhouse as “costly” to appeal to wealthy professionals, the very type of folks looking for upscale downtown living in a city that was once again experiencing boom times.
By 1924 downtown living had lost its appeal to the wealthy and most of the building’s luxury units became rental apartments. That same year new owners extended the first floor on both East First Street and Second Avenue, added a restaurant, and removed the tower roof.
After Prohibition the restaurant became a tavern and the six townhouses were divided into many apartments — forty by 1961, fifty by 2009. From 1930 until sometime after 1960 the apartment building was called Kennelworth Apartments. Ignace George Koziarek took over the restaurant in 1933 and after Prohibition was repealed operated it as a tavern. Koziarek sold the tavern in 1959, and the next year it was first listed as the Kozy Bar in city directories, likely renamed in Koziarek’s honor.
When Duluth’s Bowery was destroyed for the Gateway Renewal Project, many of its socially marginalized inhabitants found other places to live — and drink. With extremely low rents and the Kozy Bar right downstairs (and other low-rent taverns nearby) Pastoret Flats became a magnet for many former Bowery residents. Soon the entire building was known simply — and notoriously — as The Kozy.
For many years an overwhelming number of Duluth’s police calls were made in response to incidents at the Kozy or just outside its doors. The building’s most recent owner, Dr. Eric Ringsred, was trying to make it a positive gathering space for his tenants and bar patrons, many of whom suffered from alcoholism, drug abuse, and mental illness and all of whom had little or no income.
Rinsgred also purchased the building next door at 125 E. First Street and renamed it the Paul Robeson Ballroom in honor of performer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson. No performance events ever took place in the so-called Paul Robeson Ballroom.
Ringsred’s plans went up in flames on November 15, 2010, when a fire started in Unit 32. According to Ringsred, “There was a lot of mischief in that room with drugs.” The flames spread quickly, but tenants made sure no one became trapped inside; firefighters also escorted a few tenants out and saved a cat and a dog. Everyone survived but all lost their homes, the only housing in Duluth they could afford. Rent at the Kozy ranged from $160 to $460 a month.
Unfortunately, Dr. Rinsgred only had liability insurance for the building. He then failed to pay property taxes on the buuilding. St. Louis OCunty then took possession of the building and sold it to the city of Duluth. As of this writing, Pastoret Flats still stands, but the building is a burned-out ruin and restoration seems unlikely for both structural safety and financial reasons. Ringsred has once again sued the city. While the city once had permission to demolish the building, the lawsuits has since delayed that action. As of November 2020 the building still stands