Bell House

The 1887 Bell House ca. 1940s, photographer unknown. [Image: Duluth Public Library]

600 East Second Street | Architect: Oliver G. Traphagen | Built: 1887  |  Extant, Altered

One of the last remaining 1880s structures in Ashtabula Heights, the Oliver Traphagen–designed Bell House is hardly recognizable today as the Queen Anne–style masterpiece it once was. It originally featured a round corner tower topped with a conical roof, a square tower with a pyramidal cap, wood siding, gables, dormers, finials, several porches, and decorative brick chimneys. Its porte cochère was topped with a pedimental gable that featured a circular false window dressed with ornate ironwork, and an iron fence surrounded the property. Inside, the house included a third-floor ballroom. Sketches of the home, like the one shown below, were featured in literature promoting Duluth.

Ohio native Henry Harrison Bell came to Duluth in 1875 at the age of twenty-two. Two years later Bell and William Eyster formed Bell & Eyster’s Bank. In 1878 Alameda Douglas of Milwaukee gave birth to Henry A. Bell, and the following year Henry and Alameda were wed in Duluth. After the bank failed in 1890, the Bells and their four children moved to Oakland, California, where Henry died in 1910. Michael H. Kelley of Kelley-Howe-Thomson Hardware lived in the Bell house from 1900 until his death in 1925. The following year the house became Grady Mortuary, operated by Eugene C. Grady, who later partnered with Matthew T. Hughes and Edward Madden.

In 1950 Hibbing’s Thomas R. Dougherty purchased the home and business and reopened the facility as the Dougherty Funeral Home, managed by his son Thomas A. Dougherty. Since then the house has undergone a number of changes that have stripped it of its Victorian charm: In 1951, windows were removed; three years later the house was stripped of its porches and porte cochère, and its towers were either shortened or removed. Synthetic siding was applied in 1971, and an incongruent addition was tacked on to the west side in 1978.

A sketch of the Bell House ca. 1888. [Image: Zenith City Press]