March 2, 1907: Sellwood purchases landmark to make room for landmark

On this day in Duluth in 1907, newspapers announced that Captain Joseph Sellwood had purchased the landmark 1882 Merchant’s Hotel, designed by George Wirth, to make room for a building that would become a landmark itself. A native of Cornwall, England, Sellwood arrived in the U.S. in 1856  and by 1898 he was in charge of every mine owned by the American Steel and Wire Company. He became a mine developer after U.S. Steel was formed. Sellwood paid $100,000—about $2.5 million in today’s dollars—for the hotel and the 50 x 115-foot lot beneath it. It was equivalent today to paying about $50,000 per frontage foot along Superior Street, breaking a record for property on Duluth’s main thoroughfare. The new building was to be a “seven story business block of modern design.” The next time the newspaper reported on the building, it had grown to eight stories above Superior Street and nine above Michigan Street. The story also explained that Sellwood had spent up to $20,000 of his own money helping tenants of the Merchant’s Hotel find new places to live. He hired local architect William A. Hunt to design his building, which was expected to cost $150,000. Read more about Captain Sellwood here and a complete history of the Sellwood Building here.

The Merchant Hotel. (Image: Duluth Public Library)