June 25, 1892: Cornerstone laid for Duluth’s U.S. Federal Building

On this day in Duluth, Masons laid the cornerstone for the new Federal Building and Post Office, design by architect H. G. Linderman, at 431 West First Street, roughly the eastern portion of the plaza in front of today’s City Hall. Construction was slowed because local brownstone was determined too weak for the three-story building. Eventually Bedford limestone was purchased and delivered from Indiana for the building, which cost $250,000 when completed in October, 1894—over $6 million today. The building contained the customs house, courtrooms, and the main branch of the Duluth Post Office. Most Duluthians referred to the building as simply “the post office.” The Federal Building featured a square tower with turrets, arched second floor windows, and terra cotta trim on its windows and doors, all of which contributed to the heavy, massive feel of the building’s Romanesque style. On the second story of the western façade workers carved an eagle onto an eight-ton square piece of sandstone. It served Duluth until 1930, when construction of the Civic Center’s Federal Building was complete. Surrounded by Neo-Classical buildings, the old Romanesque Post Office was considered an eyesore—and it was in the way of completing Daniel Burnham’s original vision for the Civic Center. It took nine months from, December, 1934 to August, 1935, for workers to demolish the building. Read the building’s entire history here.

The 1892 Duluth Federal Building. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

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