March 8, 1968: Tower removed from Duluth’s NorShor Theatre

On this day in Duluth in 1968, workers dismantled and removed the iconic tower atop the NorShor Theatre, considered Duluth’s “Art Deco masterpiece.” According to the Duluth News Tribune, the tower had been inoperable for two years prior to its demise and “the building’s owners had it removed due to high maintenance costs.” The NorShor is actually built inside two other buildings, the 1910 Orpheum Theatre and the 1926 Orpheum Service Garage, neither of which is remotely Art Deco. The tower, in fact, was the only Art Deco element on the building’s exterior when the theatre first opened in 1941. It stood sixty-five high atop the building and many claimed its 3,000 lights could be seen sixty miles away. The News Tribune described its construction: “Over 300 tons of structural steel were used to form the skeleton…. The tower…is over 125 feet high above the sidewalk. It is completely sheathed in porcelain and is one of the first steel structures using this material in the country. It was designed to stand a normal wind pressure of more than 100 miles per hour. The foundations supporting the tower were carried down to bedrock.” The NorShor was considered Duluth’s premier first-run movie house until the early 1970s. After closing in 2010, the NorShor reopened February 1, 2018, after a $30 million renovation. Unfortunately, the renovation does not include a reconstruction of the NorShor’s iconic tower. Its cost was estimated at $1 million—3 percent of the total renovation budget—and the idea was shelved to save money. There’s much more to the history of the NorShor, and you can read it here.

The NorShor Theatre’s iconic tower photographed in 1941. (Image: Liebenberg & Kaplan)