Costello Block

22 & 24 East Superior Street | Architect: George Wirth | Built: 1884 | Lost: 2007
The Costello Block in a sketch made close to the time it was built. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

As early as 1873, John J. Costello had established a hardware store in Duluth, and in 1884 he hired George Wirthto design a new store specializing in general hardware, stoves, heaters, and works of art for the home. The two-story red brick building was adorned with patterned brick work, carved Fond du Lac brownstone, and a metal cornice that featured brackets and dentils. The store doubled in size in 1891 when Oliver Traphagen and Francis Fitzpatrick duplicated the original style on the lot next door.

Costello, a Duluth alderman and sometimes acting mayor, conducted his business here until his death in 1892. By 1896 it was home to Kelley Hardware, which would later sponsor a professional football team, the Duluth Kelleys, the team that later became the NFL’s legendary Duluth Eskimos. After 1900 the Costello Block served several different businesses, including a paint store, an appliance store, an interior decorator, and Abalan’s Pianos. In April, 2007 both sections of the still structurally sound Costello Block were demolished for a condominium development. After most of the housing units failed to sell, much of the brand new condo space was converted into the offices of P. S. Rudie and Associates, a medical practice.

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Costello Block

The building consists of two identical, red-orange brick two-story commercial buildings joined by a common brick structural wall. Although both buildings are visually similar at the second floor level, both have been subjected to alterations at the first floor that have either removed or covered the original materials and obscured the original configuration of door and window openings. A new brick façade has been added to the storefront façade of the building at 22 East Superior Street to create a small covered exterior vestibule area. Three new brick piers provide an open framework which holds two large tinted glass transoms with screened letters reading “Quality Interiors.” A brick inset panel framed by headers sits above the transoms, and a backlit plastic sign spelling “Abalan’s” is attached to the face. The transition from the upper edge of the new façade to the original façade is achieved by the application of sloped metal panels. The original storefront behind the new facade is now completely filled by large new aluminum frame storefront windows and a pair of aluminum doors with a fixed transom. The building at 24 Superior Street has received a slightly less invasive treatment with the application of cream enameled metal panels in front of the original brickwork and bulkheads. Ribbed peach metal panels were applied over the transom area along with a small backlit plastic sign, and new aluminum frame doors and windows were installed. The spandrel panels below second floor windows are still partially visible on both facades, as are the tops of the outer and central brick piers with their rectangular limestone detail blocks tooled to resemble the honeycomb-like structure of coral.

The upper floor of the 24 Superior Street building appears to be largely original in its condition, while the 22 Superior Street building has been subjected to harsh masonry cleaning and inappropriate repointing that has widened the mortar joints and utilized a new mortar that is lighter in color than the original. The second floor is divided into four bays by narrow, flat brick piers that create the frame for tall, thin window openings. The spandrels above and below each window opening hold a small rectangular recess with decorative angled brickwork that creates a three dimensional checkerboard pattern. While the narrow continuous limestone sills and large limestone block heads remain, all of the windows have been boarded over or replaced with new 1/1 single hung vinyl units. The second floor is finished by a full width flat brick arch that runs between the outer and center brick piers and is highlighted by limestone detail blocks with a coral-like finish. The arch and blocks form the support for large decorative iron brackets and a large pressed metal cornice with a wide, flat fascia below a dentil molding and a row of small brackets. The cornice at 24 Superior Street appears to be original, while that at 22 Superior Street has been modified through the replacement of the dentil molding. Text in relief reading “18 J. J. Costello 84” and “Hardware & Stoves” is visible running across the fasciae of both buildings, identifying the original function of both structures.

Because the 1891 addition was intended to double the size of the original structure and present a unified commercial appearance, this building is considered as one historic building.

Sources:

  • Dierckins, Tony and Maryanne C. Norton. Lost Duluth: Landmarks, Industries, Buildings, Homes, and the Neighborhoods in Which They Stood. Zenith City Press, Duluth, Minnesota: 2012.
  • 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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