The fire, of course, also destroyed the home of the Kitchi Gammi Club. The organization took up temporary residence in a grand two-and-a-half story residence at 203 West Second Street (the lot of the Little House was later occupied by the first Duluth Clinic.) The club leased the home from Mrs. Elizabeth Little, widow of Daniel of Little, Simmons & Co, grain and lumber traders, who also had offices in Grand Opera House. By 1892 the Little home had become too little for the club, and it moved in the brand new Howe Building (later renamed the Glencoe Building) at 228 First Street. The club took over the entire second and third floors of the three-story, brick-and sandstone Romanesque Revival building. The space included a café, a library, and twenty-two sleeping rooms, each with a private bathroom. The top floor included a 28-foot high stained-glass ceiling.
Important Kitchi Gammi Club members who came to Duluth during the club’s era within the Howe Building include William J. Olcott, superintendent of John D. Rockefeller’s Consolidated Iron Mines (which later became U. S. Steel); Julius Barnes, a grain broker and president of the Duluth Boat Club, would later serve as President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Ward Ames, Barnes’ business partner who along with Barnes built Duluth’s Y.W.C.A., Y.M.C.A., and the Ames-Barnes Building; Archibald Chisholm, banker, mining executive, and namesake of Chisholm, Minnesota; Chester Congdon, iron mining attorney, mine speculator, land developer, and builder of the Glensheen estate; H. L. Dresser, chief engineer of the Duluth, Missabe & Northern Railway; prominent Duluth architect Frederick German, A. M. Marshall, president of Marshall Hardware; Captain Joseph Sellwood, iron minor and ship builder; A. B. Wolvin, who ran the largest steamship company on the Great Lakes, and attorney Jeb Washburn, who along with his wife were heavily involved in education in the city and throughout the state. He is the namesake of Washburn Elementary and UMD’s Washburn Hall.
Washburn was also at the center of some ugliness involving Kitchi Gammi Club president Luther Mendenhall in the 1890s. Mrs. Mendenhall did not appreciate the amount of time Mr. Mendenhall spent with Kate Hardy, mistress of the Hardy School on Woodland Avenue, a girls preparatory school financed by Mendenhall and others. When Mrs. Mendenhall sued for divorce, she hired Washburn as her attorney. At the time, divorce was subject to trial by an all-male jury and newspapers ran the testimony in the next day’s newspaper under hyperbolic headlines. During the trial, a caretaker at the Hardy School testified that he had seen Mendenhall and Hardy in “compromising” positions at the school.
Even with this damaging testimony, Mendenhall emerged the winner, and he and Hardy went on to marry. But in 1899 the caretaker—then living in Minneapolis and dying of stomach ailments—contacted Mendenhall’s attorney. The caretaker recanted his testimony on his deathbed, claiming that Washburn had kept him in cash and a state of drunkenness throughout the entire trial to secure the handyman’s testimony. Mendenhall later purchased the abandoned school, had it dismantled, and used rocks from its stone edifice to help construct three houses, one in which Mendenhall and Hardy lived out their lives.
Despite the prominence of its members—83 of which would have Great Lakes steamers and ore boats named in their honor between 1883 and 1933—by 1910 the club was losing its popularity, and membership was dropping. Guilford Hartley had visited many similar clubs in his travels throughout the country and considered the architecture of the clubhouses along with the impressive membership rosters in other cities. He decided it was time the Kitchi Gammi Club kept in step with similar institutions and build a grand facility all its own, which would also help attract new members. He took the reigns of the Kitchi Gammi Club’s new building committee.
Hartley and the committee selected Bertram Goodhue as the building’s architect. Goodhue, a musician, writer, and architectural lecturer, had established solid architectural credentials, in part designing buildings for West Point in New York, including its famous chapel. The Kitchi Gammi Club was one of four buildings he was commissioned to design in Duluth that year, and the other three also had strong Hartley connections: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where the family worshiped, the Hartley Building at 740 East Superior Street, where the Hartley men conducted business, and Cavour Hartley’s home at 3800 Superior Street, across from Northland Country Club, which Cavour and Guilford helped establish.
Impressed by his friend Chester Congdon’s Glensheen estate, Hartley had Goodhue design a Jacobean Revival building with an Arts & Crafts interior, much like Congdon’s mansion on London Road and similar in style to other clubs he had visited. Jacobean architecture reflects buildings constructed in England during the era of King James I, 1603–1625. Common exterior elements include brick and stone, large rectangular windows, bay windows, triangular gables, and steeply pitched roofs. These elements in the Kitchi Gammi Club are accented by the stone carvings of Duluth’s O. George Thrana.
Inside, Arts & Crafts elements can be seen in the woodwork, tiled fireplaces, and all sorts of built in cabinetry. The wood used throughout the interior is chestnut. At the time, a blight was wiping out chestnut trees throughout the American southwest, and the wood was inexpensive and plentiful.
Local architect Harold Starin oversaw the building’s construction, which was not without its problems. A Minneapolis firm won the plumbing and heating contract through a competitive bid process. This apparently displeased at least one local pipe fitter. A test of the plumbing system left the basement and first floor flooded. Investigators found a pick axe—its tip covered in lead—and holes in several of the lead pipes. The system had been sabotaged during the night.
Later club president Edward Congdon, son of Chester, received an anonymous letter claiming that not enough lead was used in the joints of some cast iron pipes. After an expensive inspection, all pipes were found to be safe—indeed, the amount of lead exceeded the requirements.
Despite the costly delays, building construction actually came in well under budget. The committee spent just $270,000 for the four-story building that takes up over half of a city block, just over $6.5 million in today’s dollars. That included not only construction, but furnishings for the more than 80 rooms that are housed within the building’s walls.
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