The Duluth News Tribune reported earlier today that George Sherman of Sherman & Associates plans to renovate the historic NorShor Theatre include bringing back its tower. Read Candace Renall’s story about the plan and Sherman’s work to renovate other historic Duluth buildings here.
The NorShor’s 64-foot-high porcelain-wrapped Art Deco tower was made to appear as an extension of the marquee; bejeweled with 3,000 lights, many claim the tower could be seen for 60 miles. It was first lit in September of 1941, just before the NorShor opened. The Guilford Hartley Family Trust, which owned the building, dismantled the tower on March 8, 1967, citing high maintenance costs. Most believe the tower was scrapped, but some speculate that former building owner Eric Ringsred has at least some portions of it in one of his storage facilities.
Our good friends at Perfect Duluth Day reminded us that in 2010 Zenith City publisher Tony Dierckins put together a presentation on the 121-year history of grand theater’s that all shared the same real estate near the northeast corner of Second Avenue East and Superior Street: the 1889 Temple Opera House, the 1910 Orpheum Theatre, and the 1941 NorShor Theatre. You can view the presentation at PDD here.
Besides being performance and/or screening spaces, each of the three theaters also held a small art gallery. It will be interesting to see if this time around there will be room for such amenities.
It will also be interesting to see how the Skyway connection across Second Avenue East will be worked out. The Temple Opera Block, on the northeast corner of Second Avenue East and Superior Street between the NorShor to the east and Fond du Lac Casino west across the avenue, is both a Duluth Landmark Protected building and a contributing structure to the Downtown Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It has even stronger protection than the nearby Carter Hotel, which the city has recently fought to save from demolition by its owner, the Fond du Lac band. Because of the Landmark protection, the city would essentially have to break its own laws to put a skywalk through the building’s Second Avenue exterior façade.
Portions of the “skywalk” at Fifth Avenue West and Superior Street are not skywalks at all, but tunnels. Perhaps a similar solution can be worked out at Second Avenue East. We anxiously await the plan.
In the meantime we congratulate Mr. Sherman for this decision and thank him for his continued investment in Duluth and its architectural heritage.