Duluth Children‘s Home

The Duluth Children’s Home photographed ca. 1915 by Hugh McKenzie. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

504 N. 15th Ave. E. | Architects: Palmer & Hunt | Built: 1904 | Extant

The history of the Duluth Children’s Home dates back to 1883 when Marie Fogleson, who with her husband Irving operated a “notions and fancy goods” shop at 6 East Superior Street, began looking after several small children with single mothers. Two years later Sarah Burger Stearns, wife of Judge Ozora P. Stearns, organized the Duluth Home Missionary’s Society, incorporated on August 31, 1885, to “provide a temporary home for women and children, and girls of good moral character.” They opened a mission home at 1530 West Superior Street and operated a women’s employment and training bureau at 17 1/2 East Superior Street. Stearns served as the organization’s first president.

By 1887 the organization had discontinued the training bureau and was renting six rooms in a house at Seventh Street and Fourth Avenue East when it decided to build a new, fifteen-room home at 1772 East Superior Street designed by architects McMillen & Stebbins, who donated their services. In 1900 the organization changed its name to the Children’s Home Society. A Duluth News Tribune article from 1903 clarified its mission: the Children’s Home was not an orphanage but rather a temporary home for children of parents who couldn’t afford to care for them or children whose mother had died and whose father was actively looking for homes for them. The group charged six dollars a month for each child (about $175 in 2022), and the rest of its operating budget was raised at an annual charity ball, where Duluth’s high-society women showed off lavish gowns.

In 1903 the society purchased lots on the northeast corner of Fifteenth Avenue East and Fifth Street and organized a building committee including prominent Duluthians Albert Ordean, Ward Ames Sr., and Jed Washburn. The group hired Emmett Palmer and William Hunt to design what local newspapers called a “Virginia Colonial” home faced in buff brick. With its gambrel roof, the four-story building (including elevated basement) may be more accurately described as Colonial Revival. Its original architectural features included gabled dormers protruding from the roof, several Roman-arch windows, and Ionic columns supporting the large veranda along the central Fifteenth Avenue East façade and a porch, since removed, at its northern end.

The first floor originally contained the dining room, reception room, matron’s quarters, office, and general living rooms. Girls occupied the second floor, along with a sunroom, nurse’s bedrooms, and a glazed nursery. The third floor contained rooms for boys, more nurses, and an infirmary. The basement facilities included laundry, bathrooms, heating, offices, and separate playrooms for boys and girls. It opened in June 1904, with forty-seven children under the care of Superintendent Louise Wheeler and her staff.

In the 1950s the organization changed its name to Northwood Children’s Home and its mission shifted to serving children “with problems of an emotional origin.” A new group home was constructed in 1956 at 714 West College Street. The organization is now called Northwood Children’s Services. Since 1957 the 1904 Children’s Home building has served as an apartment complex.