Burrows Block, aka Columbia Building

Burrows Block, aka the Columbia Building. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

301–303 West Superior Street | Architect: McMillen & Radcliffe | Built: 1891 | Altered: 1958, 2010

Built as a five-story Romanesque Revival style retail and office complex of brick with brownstone trim, the Burrows Block was built to house Matthew S. Burrow’s Great Eastern Clothing Store, which first opened in 1886 in another location. Burrows sold men’s and children’s clothing on the first two floors and leased the upper floors as office space. Burrows loved using giveaways to increase sales. Customers shopping close to Thanksgiving often went home with a free turkey and children received sates when their parent purchased winter clothes for them. In 1900, Burrows announced that his employees would throw suits of clothes out the upper floors to patrons in the street; the crowd blocked streetcars on Superior Street. In 1905 Burrows sold his business to Columbia Clothing and moved to Michigan, and the block became known as the Columbia Building.

The Burrows Block/Columbia Building is not lost, but none of its original exterior is visible. In 1958 the building was remodeled and renamed the Beal Building. A year earlier the Duluth Herald described the remodel, announcing that the “drab brownstone and red brick building will be sheathed with enameled steel paneling in two tones of blue and a pattern of silver-aluminum stripping.” The alteration, designed by Ellingsen Associates of Duluth, also removed the entire top floor. Another façade change took place in 2010 when Duluth’s LHB Architects covered the porcelain-coated steel with blue and gray composite fiber-cement panels.