Baldwin Terrace

Baldwin Terrace ca. 1900, photographer unknown. [Image: Duluth Public Library]

715 W. Second Street | Architects: Wangenstein & Roen| Built: 1890 | Extant

Baldwin Terrace stands in Duluth today as a reminder not just of Duluth’s architectural past, but of a once-proud man whose life came to a tragic end. Born in Vermont in 1838, Melvin R. Baldwin had moved to Winnebago, Wisconsin, by 1847. During the Civil War Baldwin enlisted in the Second Wisconsin Volunteers, rising to the rank of major. After the war he returned to Wisconsin where his son George was born in 1867 (research uncovered no records of George’s mother). Baldwin moved on to Kansas, Minneapolis, and South Dakota before arriving in Duluth in 1886 with his wife Meloni, whom he had married in 1878, and the following year they welcomed a son, Harold. Baldwin entered Duluth’s booming real estate market, and in 1888 was named the president of Duluth’s Chamber of Commerce.

In 1890 the Baldwins hired Wangenstein & Roen to design a row of flats west of Mesaba Avenue along West Second Street. A three-story Romanesque Revival building faced with brick and trimmed in brownstone, Baldwin Flats was originally two distinct units, each with its own entrance and pediment-topped front porch. The east wing featured a round corner tower with a bell-shaped dome roof while the west unit had a false hexagonal tower capped with with a true hexagonal roof. Several windows sit within Roman-arch casings.

Baldwin served as Duluth’s congressman from 1892 to 1894 and was afterwards appointed Minnesota’s commissioner of Indian Affairs by President Grover Cleveland. When William McKinley replaced Cleveland in the Oval Office, Baldwin refused to resign his post as requested, forcing McKinley to remove him. Baldwin’s real estate investments had soured after the Panic of 1893, and after losing his government job in 1897, he moved to Seattle while Meloni and George remained in Duluth. Two years later the bank foreclosed on the mortgage of Baldwin Flats, and Baldwin lost his building. In April 1901 Baldwin shot himself in Seattle. The Duluth News Tribune blamed his death on “despondency over business reverses…aggravated by the depressing effects of an attack of la grippe.”
Meloni moved the following year, and thereafter city directories refer to her as “Jeanette.” By 1930 Baldwin Flats had been divided into ten apartment units. Today it is called West Hillside Apartments and offers studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. The building has been painted white, and the roof of its eastern tower and both porches have been removed.