Longfellow Elementary

Longfellow Elementary School. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

6015 Elinor Street | Architect: Palmer & Hall | Built: 1891 | Lost: 1959

Longfellow was built in 1891 at 6015 Elinor Street on a hill in West Duluth to serve students living between 53rd Avenue West and the railyard for the West Duluth Incline Railway in Bay View Heights as well as those west of 61st Avenue West. Slated to open in the fall of 1891, Longfellow Elementary didn’t see a student until April 1892 due to a Scarlet Fever epidemic. It officially opened on October 3, 1892, and served grades K-9 until 1915, afterwhich grades 7-9 were moved to a junior high.

Its twelve classrooms served West Duluth for over sixty years. Named for American author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and designed by Duluth architect’s Palmer and Hall, the brick school featured many architectural details, including arched windows and corners dressed with quoins, but its most distinctive feature was its tower, which held no bell nor clock.

Private sources raised the $3,000 needed to add the tower, which served as a landmark in West Duluth—and could be seen from Superior across the bay. In 1949, when structural engineers were calling for the tower to be removed (it was unstable and hampered efforts to renovate the building), the Duluth News Tribune said it was “to West Duluth what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris” and reported that West Duluth mothers would tell their children, “if you ever get lost, just walk to the tower and all will be well.” When sixth graders graduated, they were allowed a tour of the tower so they could see the amazing view of the harbor it provided.

The elementary school closed in 1956; it stood empty and was vandalized repeatedly. On April 22, 1959, Longfellow was destroyed by a fire which was determined to have been arson. Only the concrete steps that once led to the building’s entrance remain as a reminder of the West Duluth landmark.