July 2, 1892: Duluth’s Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral destroyed by fire

On this day in Duluth in 1892, the original Sacred Heart Catholic Church at 201 West Fourth Street was destroyed by fire. Originally built in 1870 by Slovenian missionary John Chebul, the simple wood-frame building served Duluth’s English speaking Catholics, most of Irish, German, and Polish descent. In 1889 it became Duluth’s cathedral after Reverend James McGolrick was installed as the first Bishop of Duluth.The blaze began as Father Hendricks was hearing confessions and was thought to have been caused by a lamp in the organ loft hung too close to the ceiling. It quickly spread. Keys to a nearby fire alarm box were missing, and when the fire department did arrive, its efforts were frustrated by a lack of water pressure. The building and next-door rectory were destroyed, as were many of the church’s books, but most items of value were saved, including Bishop McGolrick’s private library, described as “magnificent.” Within days the bishop announced that a new brick cathedral would be built on the site, and indeed in 1896 work was completed on the new Sacred Heart Cathedral, designed by Gearhard Tenbusch, which still stands today and serves Duluth as the Sacred Heart Music Center.

The 1870 Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church. (Image: Duluth Public Library)