311 Commonwealth Avenue | Architect: Ernest R. Erickson | b. 1927 | Extant
The developers of New Duluth built a fire hall in the early 1890s, a two-story wooden building at 311 Commonwealth Avenue with a three-story pyramidal tower and one-horse stall to contain the equipment used by its thirty-five member volunteer fire department. The Duluth Fire Department acquired the building, which doubled as a community meeting house, when the city annexed New Duluth in 1895. It served Duluth’s westernmost communities for the next thirty years before a new structure replaced it.
The Duluth Herald described the 1927 replacement building as a “modified Gothic structure,” and called it a “conspicuous example of the growing tendency to erect fire stations and police stations in buildings which are not only practical for the operation of such divisions of municipal government, but which are also distinct architectural additions to their surroundings.”
Designed by Ernest R. Erickson and faced in red brick trimmed with artstone—a composite material made of fiberglass, resin, and natural stone dust—the facility was constructed as two buildings in one. Originally the fire department occupied the northern portion, the police department the southern—there was no interior connection between the two. Elegantly adorned wings at each end of the building include entrances to their respective departments, each containing a large vestibule and public lobby
On the first floor, the fire station contained an emergency room, a watch room, and a large apparatus room that that accommodated a fire engine and a ladder truck—although there was only one doorway large enough for vehicles. Upstairs contained the captain’s office as well as a dormitory with shower facilities, a kitchenette, and a lounge. The police department’s first-floor facilities included offices for both a captain and a jailer, a record room, detention rooms, a bathroom, space for one police car, and separate cells for men, women, boys, and girls. The second floor contained a large assembly room “for police lectures.”
The basement of the police department held evidence vaults, a kitchen, a recreation room, and the department’s first indoor target range. On the north end, the lower level was used for drying firefighting equipment and included a large auditorium for community meetings.
The police department moved out of the 1927 building in 1956, after which the facility’s southern half became a community center. Engine House No. 10 continues to serve western Duluth today.