Crosby House

The Crosby House photographed ca. 1903 by Charles P. Gibson. [Image: UMD Martin Archives]

2029 E. Superior Street | Architect: I. Vernon Hill | Built: 1902 | Extant

Hastings, Minnesota, native George Crosby came to Duluth in 1887 to work as a clerk in John LaVaque’s paint store. Two years later he wed Charlotte Stultz and went into business with his brother Charles selling real estate before breaking out on his own, adding loans, insurance, and stock and bonds to his product line. By 1895 the Crosby’ had two children, George H. Jr. and Margaret. During this period Crosby caught iron ore fever and went north in search of ore, and discovered the ore bodies that became the Hawkins and LaRue mines in Nashwauk on the Mesabi Range.

When the Hawkins mine began producing ore in 1902, contractors were already busy constructing a grand home for the Crosbys at the northwest corner of Twenty-First Avenue East and Superior Street. The house has been celebrated by architecture enthusiasts as I. Vernon Hill’s ultimate expression of the “ornamental cube” approach he popularized in Duluth: a perfectly square (sometimes rectangular) mass of house festooned with exterior architectural elements from any of a number of styles that render an otherwise simple structure aesthetically elegant. Faced entirely with brownstone from Flag River, Wisconsin, the Crosby house made an ideal canvas for the work of George Thrana, whose carvings on the house include geometric panels in the eave boards and multiple stone lions, one of with is centered over the Superior Street entrance portico. Other ornaments include a porte cochère off the house’s western façade, a bulls-eye dormer above it, and a gabled dormer holding a Palladian/Venetian window along the Superior Street façade. A tile roof originally topped the house.

After the house was complete, George established the Town of Crosby on the Cuyuna Range where he had opened the Crosby mine; he paid for the community’s streets, sidewalks, and water plant. Crosby was a strong civic leader in Duluth, and his many efforts on behalf of the community included organizing the Duluth Community Fund and serving as president of the Seaway Council, which helped open the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1957. In 1931 Duluthians elected him to the city’s hall of fame. Charlotte passed away in 1938. In 1954, seven years before his death, Crosby donated 3,320 acres in the lower valley of the Manitou River on the North Shore to the state of Minnesota as an addition to the state park system, creating Crosby-Manitou State Park.

To see modern exterior and interior photographs of this house and learn more about its architecture, visit Twin Ports Past’s post about the house HERE.