Barnes-Ames Building

The Barnes-Ames building photographed ca. 1920 by Hugh McKenzie. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

2 East Second Street | Architect: German & Jennsen | Built: 1916 | Extant

Duluth’s Young Men’s Christian Association organized in 1882 at 18 East Superior Street. In 1908 the YMCA moved into a new facility at 302 West Second Street designed by German & Lignell. By 1903 its Boys Department, serving those sixteen years old and younger, was roughly 250 members strong. That year the department moved into the 1891 Turner Hall at 601 East Third Street. Originally built for Duluth’s Turnverein Society, the building featured a completely outfitted gymnasium. By 1915 the group had 375 members and had outgrown the building, so they temporarily used the Central High School gymnasium until a new building was constructed for them.

Ward Ames Sr., prominent grain commissioner and a member of the YMCA’s board of directors, had passed away five years earlier. Ames had also been also a devoted member of Pilgrim Congregational Church at 2 West Second Street, whose parishioners were building a new church in the East End. Ames’s son Ward Ames Jr. and his business partner Julius Barnes decided to honor Ames Sr. by financing the construction of a new Boys Department building on the site of the old church. The YMCA was also dear to Barnes, who lost his father in 1890 at age seventeen, the same year he went to work for Ames Sr. The Duluth News Tribune loved the idea, saying that “if ever a man lived whose memory should be cherished by his fellowmen of Duluth, it was Ward Ames.”

Frederick German, this time with Leif Jenssen, designed what newspapers called an “Italian style” building, but which may be better described as Eclectic, as it originally featured architectural elements from a variety of styles. Faced with tan brick and trimmed in stone, the three-story building’s original adornments included Ionic columns supporting both entrance porticos, segmental arch windows along the first floor of the Second Street central façade, and twin sets of three Roman-arch windows on either side of chimney along Lake Avenue. Its hipped roof was covered with tile and along Second Street four arched dormers carrying oval windows flanked a central hipped dormer. Wrought-iron balconies sat above the entrance porticos and second-story windows along Lake Avenue, while rows of modillions ran along the roof line. Nearly all of those elements have since been removed.

Inside, facilities included a swimming pool, a gymnasium, a running track, and a combination dining room and auditorium that sat two hundred and included a stage. Other spaces served as workrooms, classrooms, shops, offices, reading rooms, and a locker room. Minnesota YWCA state secretary E. W. Peck called the building “the most practical, most satisfactory and complete boys department building in the world.”

The building served the YMCA until 1957 and was used as a gymnasium by Central High students from 1960 until 1971. The American Indian Fellowship Association occupied the building from 1978 to 1986, and from 1991 to 2003 it was the school district’s Adult Education Learning Center. Since 2006 the building has been home to Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge.