January 30, 1889: Mayor J. B. Sutphin and other city officials move into new city hall

John B. Sutphin. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

On this day in Duluth in 1889, Mayor J. B. Sutphin and other city officials moved into new digs in the new city hall at 132 East Superior Street. Prior to the construction of this building, Duluth’s government and municipal court operated out of offices “on the second floor of a Superior Street saloon.” That building was actually the Hosmer Block at 13–15 East Superior Street, which was demolished to make room for Duluth’s “Soft Center” (the building that Pizza Lucé is in). When Duluth regained its city charter in 1887 (it had lost it for financial reasons in 1877), city leaders decided to celebrate by investing in public facilities. Duluth commissioned Oliver G. Traphagen to design a City Hall and Police Station/Jail next door. When it first opened, City Hall’s first floor (Superior Street Level) held offices for the City Clerk, the Health Department, the Building Inspector, the City Engineers office and drafting room, the Board of Public Works, the Parks Department and, until the Police Station and Jail was built, the office of the Chief of Police. The second floor housed the mayor, who enjoyed a private office with a balcony overlooking Superior Street from which to address the people (though we have no record of any mayor using it this way). Offices for the city’s treasurer, auditor, attorneys, and comptroller were on this floor as well, as were the City Council Chambers and committee rooms. The construction of City Hall was completed before the jail next door was built, so for a brief time the Police Department was also housed in this building in the basement (Michigan Street) level, which was also home to the city’s municipal court. You can read more about the 1889 Duluth City Hall here and learn about notorious rumors you may have heard about it here.

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