First Presbyterian (1870)

Duluth’s 1870 First Presbyterian Church.
(Image: University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections)

231 East 2nd Street | Architect: Unknown | Built: 1870 | Lost: 1971

Although theirs was not the first church building in Duluth, the First Presbyterian congregation — established June 1, 1869 — was the town of Duluth’s earliest organized church. Pioneers Luke Marvin and John Hunter served as the church’s first two elders, and their families and descendants led the church for generations. Until the church was finished in 1870, parishioners took turns hosting services in their homes. Duluth’s second church building served the Presbyterians until 1891. The picturesque wooden building, designed in the Gothic style, featured a tall corner tower, Gothic windows and doors, and bargeboards in the gable. Photos indicate it was likely painted in several colors. Three of the tower’s windows appear to make a face looking out over Duluth.

After the Presbyterians moved into their new church (designed by Traphagen and Fitzpatrick) diagonally across Second Street in 1891, the 1870 building served as home for other congregations. From 1891 to 1923 it was home to the German Roman Catholic Church of St. Anthony of Padua. It next became the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church (which later changed its name to Messiah Lutheran Church) from 1923 to 1970. It was demolished in 1971; the lot is now used as the Rainbow Community Center’s parking lot.