Duluth Bethel (1888)
From Lost Duluth: Landmarks, Industries, Buildings, Homes, and the Neighborhoods in Which They Stood, copyright © 2011, Zenith City Press, Duluth, Minnesota. Image: Duluth Public Library.
246 Lake Avenue South
Built: 1888 | Lost: 1948
Reverend Doctor Charles Cotton Salter of New Haven, Connecticut came to Duluth in 1871 to serve as the minister of Pilgrim Congregational Church. In 1876 poor health sent him abroad for a cure, but he returned to Duluth and his church in 1881. In 1887 he rented a small store on Lake Avenue South adjacent to Sutphin’s Dock, where for a few months he conducted gospel meetings and a Sunday School. He later moved services into a tent. In 1887 he organized the Duluth Bethel, a religious and social service organization for sailors on leave in Duluth. The main purpose was to keep these transients out of saloons, gambling houses, and brothels, plenty of which could be found at the time along Lake Avenue South, the heart of today’s Canal Park Business District. It was Salter’s strong belief that “no soul is too low to be received or ministered unto at the Bethel.”
In 1888, through Salter’s vigorous leadership, the Bethel constructed a clapboard building with a corner tower on Lake Avenue and Sutphin Street in today’s Canal Park Business District (shown here, date unknown). It held reading rooms, a chapel, a cooking school, a restaurant, and furnished rooms for sailors, lumberjacks, and miners. Salter held a religious service each evening. In 1894 the Bethel opened a branch along the 500 block of West Superior Street, the eastern end of Duluth’s Bowery, which at that time included over twenty-five saloons.
In 1893 workers raised the Lake Avenue building and added a third floor; six years later a fourth floor was built to increase space for a growing demand of lodgers. By 1910 the Lake Avenue Bethel again needed more space — and a great deal of repairs. The Bethel raised funds for a larger building at 23 Mesaba Avenue. The old Bethel’s last service was held on April 29, 1911. The building became the People’s Hotel and Tavern until it closed and was demolished in 1948. Today the KDLH and KBJR television studios occupy the Bethel’s original site.