Charles A. Duncan came to Duluth from Michigan in 1880 with his father David A. Duncan and brother-in-law Frank Brewer (married to his sister Jennie) and established the Duncan & Brewer Lumber Co. with a mill at the foot of 39th Avenue West. Like so many other successful businessmen, he parlayed this enterprise into several others, helping to organize and finance the Great Northern Power Co. in 1903 (he was its first president), served as president of both the American Carbolite Co. and the Carbolic Manufacturing Co. as well as vice president of the Great Oil Co. In addition he was a director on several boards, including that of the American Exchange National Bank, the Zenith Furnace Co., the Duluth Morris Plan Co., and the Duluth Crushed Stone Co. Duncan was also active in civic work. He was chairman of the Fire Relief commission following the 1918 forest fires, and was a former chairman of the budget committee of the Community Fund.
Demonstrating his financial success, Duncan and his wife, Ina, built an expansive home at 2215 East Second Street in 1906, completed by 1907, which was purchased by the Catholic Diocese of Duluth to house the bishop in 1941. (Interestingly enough, he chose to build it in brick rather than lumber.) His wealth also is evidenced by the 1910 census, in which it is noted that the family employs three servants, two females (one Finnish, the other Swedish) and an English yardman. The same year that the Charles Duncans were building their house, his mother (David Duncan’s widow, Julia,) was having a new home built next door at 2221 East Second Street (David having died in 1905).