Sears Building

The 1929 Sears Building prior to it renovation into the Fond du Lac Casino. (Image: Duluth News Tribune)
Architect: Giliuson and Ellingsen | Address: 125-131 East Superior Street | Built: 1929 | Extant (Fond-du-Luth Casino)

Sears, Roebuck and Company had this building constructed for their downtown department store in 1929 and occupied the structure until 1983. The Fond-du-Luth Casino opened in 1986. It is a three-story cream brick building located on a south/north sloping site at the intersection of Superior Street and Second Avenue East. The primary façade faces south onto Superior and is composed of eleven bays at the second and third floors, delineated by simple flat brick pilasters capped with a plain terra cotta block. Alternate pilasters have a tall, decorative, geometric finial atop the cap, and all pilasters have a slender, single-color neon strip attached directly to the masonry at the second and third floors. The original storefront at the first floor of the south façade has been largely removed as a result of alterations in 1992 that added dark grey polished granite facing and new aluminum frame doors and fixed windows. Original transoms and the spandrel panels between the first and second floor are obscured by a large black metal sign highlighted with pink, blue and yellow neon spelling “FOND-DU-LUTH CASINO.” The projecting signage extends the full width of the south façade and wraps the southeast corner to cover the first two bays of the east façade as well. At the west entrance the signage projects to create a canopy that expands vertically into a series of three neon “setbacks” covering portions of the second and third floor. Two identical vertical metal and neon signs are attached to both corners of the south façade, terminating in a projecting quarter-round element at the top of the third floor emblazoned with the word “CASINO” in pink neon. The upper floors are fairly plain in their detailing, with 11 window openings at each floor set into a blank brick face. All windows were replaced in 1992 with new pink tinted fixed aluminum frame windows in the original openings, which retained the off-white terra cotta sills. Decorative relief is provided by the spandrel and parapet panels, which have three shallow vertical brick insets that cast subtle shadow lines.

The east façade also has eleven bays defined by shallow brick pilasters with attached neon strips. The first floor is largely blank with the exception of the storefront filling the first two bays and single fixed window in the third bay. A projecting terra cotta string course separates the first from the second floor, and it is likely that this detail continued onto the primary façade as well. The arrangement of the fenestration for the second and third floors is very similar to that of the south façade, but the bays are wider resulting in larger window openings. The second floor windows are approximately half the height of those on the south side and the heads aligned at the same level. As on the south side, all windows have been replaced with new pink tinted fixed aluminum frame units except the fifth and sixth bays, which are infilled with cream brick. A secondary entrance at the north end has new aluminum framed doors, sidelights and transoms, and a large black metal and neon sign spelling “CASINO” attached to the spandrel panel below the third floor window.

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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