September 8, 1976: Fire destroys Duluth’s historic Coolerator plant No. 2

On this day in Duluth in 1976, the former Coolerator Plant at the foot of Commonwealth Avenue was destroyed by fire. The building was first constructed in 1890 to house the Atlas Iron & Brass Works. In 1935 it became Coolerator’s second manufacturing facility. Coolerator had grown out of the Duluth Showcase Company, established in Duluth in 1902. The company became Duluth Refrigerator in 1928 and in 1932 changed its name to Coolerator. Following World War II its two Duluth plants employed 1,700 people, but the business was sold and the Duluth facilities closed in 1955. The New Duluth plant was home to Chun King Foods from 1958 to 1973, when it became a storage facility owned by C. S. Lukovsky, owner of Gary Builders Supply. The 1976 fire was reported just after midnight. Eight fire companies fought the blaze until five in the morning as several hundred spectators watched. Besides heavy machinery, old furniture, sewing machines, and “as much as $150,000 in antiques” stored in the buildings were also lost in the fire, which was punctuated by exploding fuel oil tanks. The complex was a total loss; the site remains empty. Read more about Coolerator and Duluth’s other historic miscellaneous manufacturers here, and learn about Atlas Iron & Brass Works and other historic Duluth metal fabricators here.

The New Duluth Coolerator plant. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

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