1212–1228 E. First Street | Architect: Traphagen & Fitzpatrick | Built: 1890 | Extant
Henry A. and Fred W. Smith and the rest of their family came to the Zenith City on Christmas Day 1869 after their father Ansel had been appointed registrar of the U.S. Land Office in Duluth. Fred, who was nine years old at the time, later described the Duluth they arrived in as a “haphazard, scraggly and repellent settlement…a combination of Indian trading post, seaport, railroad construction camp and gambling resort, altogether wild, rough, uncouth and frontier-like.” In the 1880s Henry went to work for grain traders Spencer, Moore & Co. while Fred became a lawyer and the president of Smith-Fee Company, a tug and passenger boat service.
In 1890 Henry and Fred decided to get in on the real estate boom that had its grips on the city, hiring Traphagen & Fitzpatrick to draw up a row of Richardsonian Romanesque townhouses between Twelfth and Thirteenth Avenues East on the lower side of First Street. Faced in red-orange brick and trimmed with rough-hewn brownstone, the building stands three stories high and was designed to look like fifteen individual townhouses while the building actually contained twenty-five units. Some were simple one-bedroom apartments while eleven of them were complete, three story, 2,800-square-foot homes. The first floor’s exterior is faced in brownstone and features both Roman- and segmental-arch windows while finial-topped false gables grace the roofline and a pair of hexagonal towers help break up the fenestration. Stone carvings further adorn the building. While it was under construction the building was known as H. A. and F. W. Smith Terrace, but before it was first occupied in March 1891 it had been renamed Chester Terrace for the creek that flows east of it.
The Smiths went after high-class clientele, advertising the Terrace as the “finest and best finished houses in the city with all modern improvements, steam heat, range, laundry tubes, etc., furnished free of charge.” Early tenants included Alma and Jed Washburn, who lived there until their house in Hunter’s Park was constructed, and lumberman, grain trader,
and former Duluth mayor Horace Moore, who made the building his home until his death in 1906. In the mid 1890s the apartments of unit Number 6 in the center of the building was operated as a boarding house for “young people” run by Mary Wilcox—residents called it the Chester Terrace Hotel. Boarders were promised they would be “surrounded by the city’s very best people and amidst as bewitching a spot of natural scenery as there is in Duluth.” By 1935 the building’s townhouses had been divided into apartments, and today Chester Terrace contains forty-two apartments, all of of them two-bedroom units.