French House

The French House photographed ca. 1919 by Hugh McKenzie. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

2425 E. First Street | Architect: Frederick Perkins | Built: 1914 | Extant

Renowned for his work in Chicago and Boston and educated at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, Frederick W. Perkins spread his architectural wings over Duluth’s East End between 1910 and 1915, helping provide the neighborhood with its stylistic diversity. He began in 1910 with a Tudor Revival home for Duluth Edison Electric Co. president Alex Hartman and his wife Katherine Hartman. He followed that with the English Revival Williams House and Mediterranean Revival Bagley home, and wrapped things up with the Renaissance Revival Fay residence. But before he began on the Fay place, he drew plans for George and Isabelle French’s Beaux Arts home just west of the Bagley house.

A two-story domicile faced in reddish-brown brick laid in a Flemish bond trimmed with limestone and topped with a slate-covered hipped roof, the French residence includes many hallmarks of the Beaux Arts movement, a highly stylized subset of Neoclassicism. Seven segmental-arch dormers—three on the front or southern façade, two on the east, and one each off the north and west—peek out of the roof. The house has no front entry. Instead, a limestone porte cochère, including a Roman-arch pedestrian passageway flanked with Doric pilasters and adorned with garland carvings, welcomes visitors inside from the eastern side of the home. The front façade is split into five bays, with the two outer bays along the first
level made of arched limestone window surrounds with Doric columns and carved stone plaques. Inside, the six-thousand-square-foot house counts among its offerings six bedrooms, six bathrooms, and a sun porch. As reported by the Duluth News Tribune’s Mike Creger in 2015, book-matched walnut panels cover the dining room walls, while the den is finished in pickled chestnut and its fireplace includes handcrafted Moravian tiles by Henry Mercer, whose tile graces fireplaces in several other East End homes and the Kitchi Gammi Club.

The French House was furnished with goods from George’s furniture store. Born in New Hampshire in 1862, French first arrived in Duluth in the 1880s. In 1894 he and Isabelle C. Deming of Illinois tied the knot and settled into Duluth, but not a house, moving several times before their 1914 home was complete. George died in 1938, and two years later Isabelle married attorney Francis W. Sullivan, who died in 1941 after just a year of marriage. Isabelle remained in the house until her death in 1956. The home was then purchased by Oliver Mining Company engineer George Winn and his wife Laura, who passed in 1987 and 2001 respectively. The house then became the property of their daughter, Printha Market, who told the Duluth News Tribune that the house has been relatively untouched since her parents moved in. The house sold in 2021 as a private residence; most of the furniture was sold separately.

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.