Duncan House

The Duncan House photographed ca. 1915 by Hugh McKenzie. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

2215 E. Second Street | Architect: Bray & Nystrom | Built: 1907 | Extant

Perched above East Second Street just west of Oregon Creek, this two-and-a half-story yellow brick house is one of Duluth’s shining examples of American Foursquare architecture, incorporating elements of both Prairie and Classical Revival styles. All three styles were reactions to the often overly ornate Victorian architecture and stressed craftsmanship and simplicity. Typical of the style, the house’s footprint is practically square to maximize interior space, and it is topped with a tile-capped pyramidal hipped roof with broad eaves. A large central dormer with flared eaves extends below the roofline to the second floor, forming a balcony supported by heavy, ornate corbels. Similar corbels are found beneath the balustrade that tops the massive front porch, which wraps around the house to connect with the porte cochère and is itself partially propped up by a pair of columns with capitals whose design reflects that of the corbels. Other elements include rounded dormers, windows wrapped in heavy quoins and topped with articulated lintels and keystones, and urn-shaped balustrades. A matching carriage house was built north of the main home.

The house was originally built for Charles A. and Ina Duncan. Much like Thomas Merrill, Charles Duncan came to Duluth from Michigan in 1880 with his father David A. Duncan to established Duncan, Gamble & Co. with James Gamble and Frank Brewer, who had married Charles’s sister Jennie. Charles himself married fellow Michigander Christina “Ina” Rose the next year, and they went on to have five children. The firm initially logged pine lands along the Nemadji River before becoming a wholesale business. In 1887 Gamble left the firm, which reorganized as Duncan, Brewer & Co. Four years later the company built a large mill at the foot of Thirty-Ninth Avenue East along St. Louis Bay. In 1902 the Red Cliff Lumber Company purchased the business. By then Duncan was involved in the creation of the Great Northern Power Company, serving as its first president, as well as the American Carbolite Company, producers of calcium carbide, used to create acetylene gas. He also served on the boards of many other Duluth enterprises. Duncan died in 1924 at the age of sixty-six; Ina moved from the house after his death and was eighty-eight when she passed away in 1947.

The house continued to serve as a private residence until 1941, when the Diocese of Duluth purchased the building as a home for its bishop, initially Reverend Thomas A. Welch. In the 1980s it briefly housed a mental health care facility before becoming a short-lived bed and breakfast. Today it is once again a single-family home.

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.