Hugh Fawcett

High Fawcett. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

Duluth pioneer Hugh Fawcett was born into a Puritan family in England on August 7, 1862. His father was a successful building contractor, and Hugh took up that trade. In 1881 he moved to Toronto, Canada, where he worked as a carpenter for a year before moving to Duluth to do the same. In November of 1883 he married Emily King in the First Baptist Church on the corner of 2nd Ave. W. and 3rd St.. King had just arrived in Duluth from England a few days before, according to the Duluth Weekly Tribune, “traveling all the way across the ocean and the eastern part of this continent to become Mr. Fawcett’s bride.”

During his first two years in Duluth, Hugh worked as a foreman for an independent contractor. He then took a job with the construction firm of Watterworth & Fee, and in that position oversaw the construction of Lincoln School (1890) and Duluth Central High School (1892). The next year he became superintendent of construction for the Duluth Public Schools, a job he held until about 1900. That was a busy time for school building in Duluth, and Fawcett oversaw the construction of many schools, including Adams, Jefferson, and Monroe.

When Fawcett resigned the school post he and business partner Harry Pearson started the contracting firm of Pearson & Fawcett The firm won bids on some important building projects in downtown Duluth, starting with the new Carnegie library at 101 W. 2nd St. in 1901. Pearson & Fawcett also constructed the building that housed the Yale Laundry at 30-32 E. 1st. St. Haley’s Restaurant building at 214 W. Superior St., the Metropolitan Opera House at 602 W. Superior St. (built in only 14 weeks), and a business block at 2nd Ave. W. and 1st. St. Fawcett and Pearson split up around 1904 when each started his own construction business.

With his own company, Fawcett constructed an amazing number of buildings in Duluth and Northeastern Minnesota. In Duluth they include the Kensington Apartments at 1422 E. 3rd St., a business block at 25-27 E. Superior St. for Charles Schober to house his Vienna Bakery and Café, the Berkshire apartments at 731 E. 1st St., the Barrington apartments at 115 North 8th Ave. E., the Hillside Fire Station at 901 North 7th Ave. E., and the Liberty School at 106 E. 3rd St. Outside of Duluth, Fawcett’s projects include the Rex Hotel in Baudette, the Nashwauk Village Hall, the Two Harbors Grade School, and the Tower School Building.

In 1921, Fawcett built the Arcade Building, also called the Robert’s Building, at 305–307 W. Superior St. in Duluth. The building housed Robert’s Upstairs Clothing Shop and The Place—a billiards hall—on the upper floor and Collins Lunch on the street level. Collins Lunch was owned by Fawcett and F. X. Collins and was billed as “America’s Most Beautiful Lunch Room for Ladies and Gents.”

Fawcett was also interested in politics. In 1908, he ran unsuccessfully for First District St. Louis County Commissioner. In 1918, he ran for Minnesota Representative for the 58th District. He won a seat in the 1919-1920 legislative session, representing central Duluth and Duluth Heights as well as part of St. Louis County outside of Duluth.

Hugh and Emily Fawcett had four children: William E., Frederick Charles, Amelia, and Gilbert. The couple remained in Duluth for the rest of their lives. Hugh died on May 24, 1941, and Emily died on December 11, 1957. They are buried in Forest Hill Cemetery.

Hugh Fawcett. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

Hugh Fawcett, a representative from Duluth in the Legislature, has been a resident of the city nearly forty years, and independently or working with others has been identified with a large and important plan of building construction, including many of the prominent features of the city’s architecture both of the modern and pre-modern period.

Mr. Fawcett was born in England August 17, 1861. He is of English Puritan ancestry, and his father was also a leading contractor, living at Blackburn, where the family had resided for several generations. Hugh Fawcett came to America alone in 1881, and for six months was employed as a carpenter, a trade he learned in England, at Toronto, Canada.

In 1882 he moved to Duluth, and has ever since been engaged in some phase of the building business. For two years he was foreman for John Waddell, and then became associated with the firm of Waterworth & Fee, contractors, during the construction of the Lincoln School and the Duluth Central High School. Following his work on these school buildings he was engaged as superintendent of construction by the Duluth Board of Education in 1890. Under his superintendency were erected the Adams, Monroe, Jefferson, Webster, Bryan and Fairmount Schools. He resigned as superintendent of construction to engage in the contracting business with Mr. H. Pearson, under the name Pearson & Fawcett. To this firm are credited the building of the Public Library and a number of large structures in the city. Since the dissolution of the partnership Mr. Fawcett has continued business alone, and has developed a highly expert and adequate organization for handling the best class of building contracts.

Much of his work has continued in school building construction, and the record includes the high school, county building and grade school at Two Harbors, the Courthouse at Hibbing, the Public Library at Buhl, the High School at Tower, and many of the modern structures on Superior street in Duluth. The present program on which his organization is engaged includes the erection of two school houses, the Franklin and the Liberty, at Duluth, and a grade school at McKinley, Minnesota.

For a number of years Mr. Fawcett’s business headquarters have been in the Mesaba Block in Duluth.

An able business man, known as an organizer and executive, Mr. Fawcett had every qualification for good work in the Legislature. He was elected and has served during the 1919-21 session in the House of Representatives from the 58th District. His attitude as a legislator is reflected in the deep interest in the Compensation Law, the Soldiers’ Bonus and the law regulating cold storage as a factor in the high cost of living problem, the theory being that reducing the time for storage would prevent hoarding of products from the markets. He was opposed to the Tonnage Tax.

Mr. Fawcett is affiliated with Palestine Lodge No. 79, A. F. and A. M.

On November 13, 1883, in the Baptist Church of Duluth, he married Miss Emily King, whose people came from England. She has been greatly devoted to her home and family through all her married life.

Four children were born to their marriage, Emelia, William, Fred and Gilbert. Emelia is Mrs. William Killgore, living in the Bergman Flats.

William died of typhoid fever. Fred is foreman of bricklayers in his father’s organization. Gilbert is private secretary to a railway executive in California. All the children were given high school educations.


  • Ouse, David. Forgotten Duluthians. X-Presso Books, Duluth, Minnesota: 2010.
  • Van Brunt, Walter, ed. Duluth and St. Louis County, Minnesota Vols. 1 – 3. The American Historical Society. Chicago: 1922.
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