February 26, 1966: Fire destroys Duluth’s Ramstad Block

On this day in Duluth in 1966, fire destroyed the Ramstad Block at 2 1/2 East First Street, the southeast corner of Lake Avenue and First Street. According to Duluth Fire Department historian Jarry Keppers, “This fire started at 7:03 p.m. on February 26, when ten businesses were swept by fire at the southeast corner of First Street and Lake Avenue. This two- and three-story brick building housed Archie’s Hotel, Rem Mac Office Machine Company, Springer Bros. Radio Sales & Service, Elena’s Cafe, Young-at-Heart Records, the Workers’ Publishing Company, Lee’s Hospital Supplies, Office Service Incorporated, and Lawrence Berg Photography. There were 44 guests in Archie’s Hotel when the blaze broke out. Some of the occupants were forced to evacuate via windows and fire department ladders, but all escaped safely. Chief Leonard summoned all off-duty firefighters to the scene. About 80 men were on the scene fighting the blaze with 13 fire units. Fire rigs from Cloquet, Proctor, and the Air Base were called to the scene. Superior Fire Department units were placed on standby at Duluth Headquarters. The fire was believed to have started somewhere in the second story flooring but was never positively determined because of the almost total destruction of the building in which some 1,200,000 gallons of water was used to extinguish the $130,000 fire.” Keppers’ book is out of print, but you can find copies of it at the Duluth Public Library.

The cover of “Fire & Ice: A History of the Duluth Fire Department” by Robert J. Vigliaturo Jr. and Jarry M. Keppers, in which we have been grateful to find many stories about the fires that shaped the history of the city’s industry and architecture. You can read the whole book at the Duluth Public Library.