Duluth National Bank (1922)

Minnesota National Bank photographed in 1922 by Hugh McKenzie. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

5629 Grand Ave. | Architects: Holstead & Sullivan | Built: 1922 | Extant

Popular physician Dr. John J. Eklund led a group of investors—supported by West End business owners—that organized the Duluth State Bank in 1910, operating out of 1924 West Superior Street with Eklund acting as president. In 1921 the bank decided to construct a building of its own at the southwest corner of Twentieth Avenue East and Superior Street, hiring architects Holstead & Sullivan to design a two-story Neoclassical confection over a steel and concrete skeleton. Faced with Bedford stone and perched on a foundation of highly polished Rockville granite, the building is adorned with classical elements including two massive fluted Doric columns flanking the the Superior Street entrance portico, designed to resemble a Roman triumphal arch. The portico is crowned with a cartouche in a shell motif, which is repeated in the building’s grand cornice. Outer piers are festooned with Roman garland-and-coin motifs to signify abundance. Heavy bronze doors lead inside, where the floors are covered in light-gray Tennessee marble, with white Alabama marble wainscoting along the walls. The bank occupied the entire first floor while offices on the second floor were initially rented to physicians. Before construction was complete, the bank received a national charter, forcing its name to change to the Duluth National Bank. The new facility opened in July 1922, and a month later Eklund was killed by a gunman; his son William, also a physician, took his place as bank president. Second-floor tenants throughout the years included many doctors as well as dentists, lawyers, real estate agents, and the West End Civic & Business Club. In the early 1980s the financial institute became a branch of First Bank Duluth and today is an arm of U.S. Bank.