Bell & Eyster Bank

3 West Superior Street | Architect: George Wirth | Built: 1884 | Extant

Sited on a narrow rectangular plot with an elaborate red sandstone façade on the south and common brick sidewalls, this three story commercial red sandstone building originally was one of a series of elaborate brick and red sandstone Victorian façades that lined the 100 West block of Superior Street. Now only the Bell & Eyster Building and the Wirth Building (also by George Wirth) remain of that early commercial streetwall. The first floor storefront was heavily altered by a series of renovations in 1937, 1943 and 1945, resulting in the loss of the original cast iron storefront system. New aluminum frame storefront windows and doors have been inserted, along with a new brick bulkhead. Metal panels and vertical wood sheathing cover the original transoms, and heavy layers of paint obscure the original masonry frame surrounding the storefront opening, which appears to include a framework of molded decorative tiles. It is not clear whether these tiles are original, or a later addition. A narrow metal string course of bronze or iron separates the storefront from the second floor.

Four red sandstone pilasters constructed from seven massive rusticated red sandstone ashlar blocks frame the three window bays of the second floor. The window openings are very large and retain the original 1/1 double hung wood frame windows, with the central window slightly wider than the outer two units. The windows rest on a continuous red sandstone sill, and share a large, flat red sandstone head that has a decorative curved molding carved directly above each window. A simple projecting red sandstone string course separates the second from the third floor, which is much lighter and more elaborate in its fenestration and decoration. Two projecting square pillars capped by fluted columns define the edges of the third floor window bay, which is divided into five tall, narrow bays by rusticated ashlar block pillars similar to those on the second floor. The original double hung 1/1 wood frame windows survive intact, with transoms filled by variegated leaded glazing. Each window is topped by a heavily deteriorated half-round panel that appears to be constructed from a type of cast plaster. These fill the half-round stone arches that form the window heads. Although now obscured by metal siding, the original parapet was a tall, elaborate construction of two large modified Corinthian capitals flanking a series of thirteen vertical coves topped by an inset half-round or shell motif. A red sandstone coping finished the parapet wall.

Sources:

  • Koop, Michael. “National Register of Historic Places Registration for the Duluth Commercial Historic District.” Minnesota State Office of Historic Preservation, St. Paul: 2005.
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