September 12, 1909: Construction begins on the Alworth Building 

On this day in Duluth in 1909, construction began on the Alworth Building at 306 West Superior Street. Designed by renown architect Daniel Burnham, the Alworth stands sixteen stories high, the tallest building in the Zenith City. Local architect John J. Wangenstein oversaw all of its construction. The cream-colored brick masterpiece took only nine months to build, and the Duluth News Tribune described it as “a cosmopolitan office building, one that dwarfs the tower of Babel” and “an epoch in the architectural history of Duluth.” The building features terra cotta floral medallions on the upper floors and three oval windows, each capped with massive terra cotta lions’ heads and floral motifs on the top floor. Marshall H. Alworth—Duluth pioneer in lumber, mining, and real estate—financed the construction of the building that bears his family’s name. Construction of the building took just nine months, and the building did not go up without some problems. Falling bricks and timbers during construction broke windows in adjacent buildings and struck pedestrians. One worker employed by the Chicago firm that constructed the building, 25-year old Tony Viola (described as “an Italian”), attempted to rappel down the building using a cable in late December; a poor grip on the frozen cable led to his death, as he dropped fourteen stories and was, according to the News Tribune, “dashed into an almost unrecognizable mass.” Read a complete history of the Alworth Building here.

The Alworth Building, photographed in 1914 by Hugh McKenzie. (Image: University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections)