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June 26, 1894: Cornerstone laid for new Board of Trade Building

On this day in Duluth in 1894, Duluth’s Masons laid the cornerstone for the second Board of Trade Building at 301–307 West First Street “with all the circumstance incident to the Masonic ritual.” The day’s event started at three p.m. with a horse-drawn carriages bringing dignitaries to the Masonic Temple. At four p.m. a procession led by Harris’s Military Band and including two platoons of police officers, a detail from the fire department, two companies of the Duluth militia, representatives from local labor unions and the chamber of commerce, city officials, another band, and of course members of the Board of Trade, master Masons, and the Knights Templars. In a speech, Mayor Ray T. Lewis exclaimed, “This day will soon be past but the work inaugurated will go on till it results in a beautiful building of which Duluth can be proud.” He was right, of course, and that beautiful building is still with us today. Fire has shaped its history. It was built after the original Board of Trade Building burned in 1894, and its cornice was removed after another fire damaged the building in 1948. Designed by renowned Duluth architects Traphagen & Fitzpatrick and built of steel, stone, brick, and marble, the ornate Romanesque structure with a two-story entrance and elaborate stone carvings by O. George Thrana cost $350,000 in 1895, a value of nearly $11 million in 2020. The Board of Trade moved out in the early 1970s with the decline of Duluth’s grain trade. Today the building is used as office space for attorneys and architects and is the longtime home of the Exchange Bakery. In the 1990s the trading floor was renovated and it now serves as rehearsal space for the Minnesota Ballet.

A postcard of Duluth’s 1895 Board of Trade building made between 1900 and 1915. (Image: Zenith City Press)trade