March 6, 1979: Duluth’s Hemlock Garage collapses under weight of snow

On this day in Duluth in 1979, the roof of the Hemlock garage at 302 East First Street collapsed, crushing several cars but injuring no one. Assistant Fire Chief Robert O’Rourke said the collapse was caused by “a lot of snow on an old building.” The building was constructed in 1896 as the Duluth Auditorium, the Duluth Entertainment & Convention Center of its day. In 1979 Krenzen’s Cadillac-Pontiac-Honda was using the building as storage, renting a portion of it to City Councilor John Fedo for his car refurbishing business. Luckily, Fedo had moved his business out of the facility in January. Several cars were crushed, and the building was so badly damaged it had to be demolished. The Duluth News Tribune reported that the collapse occurred “with a rumble and a cloud of yellow dust” at 1 p.m., about three hours after Fedo announced he was running for mayor. Fedo joked that if he had not moved his business, “It might have been the shortest Duluth mayoral campaign in history.” he won the election. Read more about the history of the Hemlock/Duluth Auditorium here, and about Duluth’s Amphitheater, whose roof also collapsed because of snow, here.

The Duluth Auditorium. (Image: Duluth Public Library)