January 31: 1893: The Spalding Hotel hosts the first (and last) banquet of the Duluth Real Estate Exchange

The Spalding Hotel photographed in the 1890s. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

On this day in Duluth in 1893, the first banquet of the Duluth Real Estate Exchange was held at the Spalding Hotel. “Aha!” the reader exclaims, “you’ve finally run out of interesting things to write about—a real estate banquet? C’mon!” Well, in 1893 real estate was where it was at as far as business goes—and the sale of what is now West Duluth from Oneota to New Duluth was making many men wealthy. When C. E. Lovett first began selling lots of Duluth’s Sixth Division in 1890, the News Tribune reported that on the first day of the sale “there was a dense mass of hustling, howling, real estate flesh and bones outside the door, which was soon thrown open and then the fun began…the crowd swarmed into the office, smashing the glass in the door and several railings near desks. C. T. Abbott was quite badly cut on the hand in his desperate struggle for wealth and others were bruised.” Sales at the end of the day amounted to $142,000—over $3.6 million today—and every lot on Central Avenue in the Sixth Division was sold. Invitations to the 1893 banquet were sent out to real estate investors far and wide, including St. Paul and Tennessee, and more than 200 tickets to the event presold the first day they were available. At the banquet, Duluth Mayor Charles D’Autremont spoke on “Future Greatness,” Superior Mayor Scott on “The Head of the Lakes,” and D. A. Henderson of Minneapolis on “How Millionaires are made” (by investing in real estate, no doubt). Luther Mendhenhall, president of the Duluth Street Railway Co., explained how building a street railway would increase home sales and Robert Denfeld touted Duluth’s school system. There were nearly a dozen speakers in all and between their presentations the Duluth Glee Club performed songs. With industry and infrastructure and the recent opening of the Mesabi Iron Range, Duluth and West Duluth’s futures could not have been brighter. But later that year came the Panic of ’93, a financial crisis that sent the nation into an economic depression and pretty much shut down Duluth—particularly the West Duluth metal manufacturing industry. In fact, because of the Panic, the township of West Duluth would soon merge with Duluth to ensure its financial survival, and swell both the cities boundaries and population. The 1893 gathering was not only the group’s first annual banquet, but its last as well.

3 Responses to January 31: 1893: The Spalding Hotel hosts the first (and last) banquet of the Duluth Real Estate Exchange

  1. In the 1960s, shortly before the Spalding was closed and later razed, I attended what must have been among the last gatherings in the hotel. A group I was associated with at UMD rented a large public room at the back of the hotel, on the Michigan Street level, for social gatherings, aka, parties. We didn’t realize then we were part of a storied history of a grand old hotel. I know it now and am glad to have been a part of it.

  2. I almost get sick looking at that beautiful building and think of all that it could have been today. Nice article!!!

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