March 6, 1979: Duluth’s Hemlock Garage collapses under the weight of snow

The Duluth Auditorium. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

On this day in Duluth in 1979, the Hemlock Garage at 302 East First Street collapsed under the weight of snow. No one was injured, but the building was a total loss and had to be demolished. The structure, built by the Union Rink Company in 1896, was intended to be the home of the Duluth Curling Club, but by the time the rink was completed a contract disagreement had sent the curlers looking for another place to play. The building, a two-and-one-half-story wooden structure with a curling rink on the first floor and open-ice skating on the second, opened in 1896 as the Union Ice-Skating Rink. By 1900 the rink had closed and over the years the building was used for various purposes. In 1910 the Auditorium was faced with brick. In 1921 the L. Hammel Company purchased the building and converted its second floor into a hall with a seating capacity of 2,500. The company then renamed the building the Auditorium and advertised it as “well adapted for conventions, mass meetings, balls, assemblies, or any occasion for the gathering of a large number of people.” From 1965 to 1978 the building was home to the Hemlock Garage, an automobile repair shop that still operates at 110 East Fourth Street. In 1979 Krenzen’s Cadillac-Pontiac-Honda purchased the building to use as storage; Krenzen’s rented a portion of the lower level to future Duluth Mayor John Fedo for his car-refurbishing business. Earlier that year, the property had been valued at $33,100—but the building itself was only worth $800. Interestingly, Fedo, a Duluth city councilor at the time, had moved his business out of the building in January and had announced his candidacy for mayor just three hours before the building collapsed. He joked with the newspaper that had he kept his business in the building, his “might have been the shortest Duluth mayoral campaign in history.”

One Response to March 6, 1979: Duluth’s Hemlock Garage collapses under the weight of snow

  1. I remember that day well. My brother had a business around the corner on East Superior Street and used to park his car next to Hemlock Garage.

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