Rockhill Buick Company

222 East Superior Street | Architect: Unknown | Built: 1928 | Extant (Teatro Zuccone/Zinema)

Note: This was written prior to the building’s renovation into the Teatro Zuccone/Zinema.

This ornate cream terra cotta commercial building typical of those designed to house automobile showrooms across the country in the 1920s, but it is somewhat unusual for Duluth, which has very few terra cotta facades.

Now housing the St. Louis County Health Department, the entire first floor was reworked in 1972 with new aluminum frame doors and windows and glazed concrete masonry units for the bulkheads and vertical supports.

Plywood panels with applied wood trim and signage now cover the original transoms. Only the outermost engaged hexagonal terra cotta columns survive from the original storefront, but based on the positioning of the structural members the current three-bay configuration of the first floor seems to correspond to the original layout.

An intricate band of mildly damaged figural terra cotta panels occupies the spandrel above the storefront window, including a wide variety of generic images such as shields and torches interspersed with heraldic dragons and griffons. Bead and reel molding runs along the upper edge of the panels, followed by a larger egg-and-dart molding, and finally an interesting play on the egg-and-dart motif fashioned from large acanthus leaves flanked by smaller oak leaves. The latter molding projects slightly forward to support the flat continuous sill of the second floor windows. Four hexagonal engaged columns divide the second floor into three large bays each of which is framed by a pair of engaged Solomonic columns, with the center bay further subdivided into three by another pair of Solomonic columns. The original windows were replaced with banks of undersized new aluminum casement windows awkwardly fitted into the existing openings with metal panel infill. The head is a simple molding supporting a flat fascia decorated with rectangular plaques bearing shield motifs, which is capped by a row of dentils and another projecting molding course. Three courses of terra cotta blocks in a running bond pattern form a low parapet wall that is completed by terra cotta coping tiles.

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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