Temple Opera Block

Temple Opera Block

From The National Register of Historic Places, Registration for the Duluth Commercial Historic District prepared by Mike Koop of the Minnesota State Office of Historic Preservation, 2005. The entire document is available at the Duluth Public Library.

201-205 East Superior Street
Architect: Charles McMillen and E. S. Stebbins
Built: 1889 | Extant

This is a massive three-story Richardsonian Romanesque red sandstone building with Moorish influences located at the intersection of Superior Street and Second Avenue East. The building in its current form represents only the foundation of what was originally a seven-story structure that culminated in a massive copper cupola with an unusual spherical clock tower. The upper stories and cupola were dismantled in 1941 and the remaining structure was capped at the third floor.

The primary façade fronts Superior Street, defined by three bays arranged slightly asymmetrically around a prominent central arched entryway. Three large square piers of rusticated red sandstone blocks frame the two storefronts that flank the central entry. The western storefront is broken into two sections by an intervening pier that create a projecting corner bay and a narrower recessed bay adjacent to the entry, while the eastern storefront is a single wide bay. As a result of the differences in their structural supports, the eastern storefront has two thin cast iron columns supporting a large steel beam with cast iron rosettes decorating the ends of the tie rods. The storefront is symmetrical, with two large bronze frame windows topped by transoms with two keyhole profiles on either side of a setback entrance with a large single-light wood door. The window frames and door have been painted and the entrance transom was covered by a plywood panel and new signage as part of a 1984 renovation that also cleaned the masonry. The western storefront has two separate bronze frame units below a large steel beam. The smaller unit in the narrow bay has two keyhole transoms above a large window, and the larger unit has three keyhole transoms over a large plate glass window and a setback entry with a single-light wood door. Two pairs of small pink granite columns (one engaged square column and one freestanding round column) are elevated on a rusticated red sandstone block base and flank two projecting bronze frame display cases. Rough red sandstone bases and intricately carved red sandstone capitals covered with lacelike arabesques in shallow relief serve as a stark contrast to the smooth surfaces of the granite, while providing a subtle reference to the distinctive features of North African and Spanish architecture that were frequently incorporated into the visual vocabulary of Masonic structures.

The columns support a flat, undecorated frieze and quarter round molding with carved relief, which provide a platform for the spring point of the large Moorish arch at the second floor encircling a projecting bronze balcony.

Four full-height double-hung 1/1 wood frame windows with large transoms provide access to the balcony from the interior. The side bays at the second floor are demarcated by a projecting water table resting on the steel support beams of the first floor. The eastern bay is punched by two openings containing a pair of wood frame 1/1 double hung windows with transom. Each window pair sits above a simple continuous sill of flat-faced red sandstone blocks, while the heads are separate and slight more elaborate blocks with a molded surround. The arrangement of the western bays is similar, with the exception that the three openings each contain a single 1/1 wood frame double hung window. Each opening is separated by a flat pier of rusticated blocks topped by a capital carved with arabesques in shallow relief located at the level of the transoms. The third floor repeats the same fenestration pattern as the second, with heads and sills of a more simplified design and reduced scale. The central bay above the large arch displays two openings filled with a pair of 1/1 wood frame double hung windows with transoms. The truncated building has been terminated at the third floor with the addition of a projecting painted metal cornice and low parapet wall of reddish-orange brick. A larger cornice was placed atop the central bay with signage on the fascia reading “Temple Opera Block.” The west façade is a more simplified version of the primary south façade. The lower level is composed almost entirely of rusticated blocks forming a massive foundation, interrupted only by continuation of the storefront wrapping the corner at the south end, and the insertion of three small three-quarter-round windows with leaded glass. A single entrance at the north end is framed by a tall pedimented surround supported on two slender engaged columns. The second and third floors are divided into three bays, with the central bay projecting slightly as on the south façade. The treatment of the fenestration mimics that of the primary façade, with three openings in the south bay, and two openings each in the central and northern bays. As on the front, the third floor is awkwardly finished with a projecting metal cornice and low brick parapet.