Fay House/Tweed Museum of Art

The Fay House, aka the first Tweed Museum of Art, photographed ca. 1915 by Hugh McKenzie. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

2531 E. Seventh Street | Architect: Frederick Perkins | Built: 1915 | Extant

Frederick Perkins designed his final Duluth home in an adapted Italian Renaissance Revival style. Standing at the northwest corner of Twenty-Sixth Avenue East and Seventh Street, the two-story Fay/Tweed home is faced with Lombardi brick and capped with a low-pitched hip roof covered in red tile. The main entrance along the Seventh Street façade’s eastern end is wrapped in a classical stone surround featuring pilasters, a Roman-arch transom, brackets, and elaborate carvings. On the western end of this façade a stone surround wraps around the house’s southwest corner along the second level, carrying a row of Roman-arch fanlight windows. Inside, five bedrooms, five bathrooms, and four fireplaces make up just some of the rooms that occupy the house’s nearly seven thousand square feet of space.

The house was built for Captain Marcus L. and Sarah Fay, both born in Canada in 1848. Marcus Fay moved to Michigan with his family as a child, then moved on to Wisconsin where he began working in the lumber industry. In 1870 he and Sarah wed and went on to have three children. In 1894 the Fays moved to Virginia, Minnesota, where Marcus began a new career in mining. When Virginia was destroyed by fire in 1900, Fay was instrumental in rebuilding the community, constructing its first brick building and several other prominent facilities. He also opened several major iron mines—his title of “captain” meant he was a mining captain. Fay’s actions propelled him into politics, and his fellow Virginians elected him mayor in 1903. But Fay’s actions to control Virginia’s saloons soon lead to death threats, and dynamite was used to intimidate the mayor. After Marcus lost reelection, the Fays moved to Duluth and in 1908 settled into a home at 2105 East Superior Street. The Fays moved into the Perkins-designed house in 1915, but directories and newspaper accounts show that they moved back to their Superior Street residence in 1917. Sarah Fay died two years later, and Captain Fay passed in 1921.

The year prior to Fay’s death, George and Alice Tweed purchased the home and moved in along with their adopted niece, Bernice Tweed. Minnesota native George P. Tweed was the oldest son of eleven children born to Norwegian immigrants Evan and Anna Tuv. The family moved to Duluth in 1887 and changed their surname to Tweed. In 1889 the eighteen-year-old Tweed began his career in real estate, but in 1900 his attention turned to iron mines. By 1920 Tweed and his partners had developed roughly twenty iron mines on northeastern Minnesota’s three iron ranges. Along the way Tweed married Faribault native Alice Lyon, described as “a woman of accomplishments both in her home and outside.”

Much of the space on the first floor of the house was given over to the Tweed’s extensive and impressive collection of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European and American art. They even opened their home to the public once a week for viewings. Four year’ after George’s death in 1946, Alice Tweed donated the home and the art collection it contained to the Duluth State Teacher’s College, soon to be renamed the University of Minnesota Duluth. Thus the house became the school’s original Tweed Museum of Art. In 1958 a brand new Tweed Museum of Art, financed by Alice Tweed, was constructed on UMD’s new upper campus. The Fay/Tweed house then served as UMD’s provost’s residence for a number of years. Today it is a private residence.

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.