Hayes Block

The Hayes Block ca. 1871, photographer unknown. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

30–38 East Superior Street | Architect: Abraham Radcliffe | Built: 1871 | Lost: 1906

Many of Duluth’s early residents hailed from Ohio, and when the tiny community suddenly blossomed in 1869, Buckeye State governor Rutherford B. Hayes took notice. Hayes asked his friend, Ohio attorney William K. Rogers, to visit the booming city and look into real estate investments. Rogers and Hayes together purchased 160 acres “along the hilltop” and two lots in downtown Duluth at the southwest corner of First Avenue East and Superior Street where they built the city’s second brick building.

The Duluth Minnesotian announced Hayes and Rogers had hired “architect Ratcliffe [sic] of St. Paul,” meaning Abraham Radcliffe, father of noted Duluth architect Edwin Radcliffe. The elder Radcliffe designed a simple three-story Italianate structure faced in local red brick from Shaw & Ingalls brickyard in Oneota. The windows—Roman arched on the third floor—were trimmed in iron with stone lintels and keystones. The doors were also trimmed with iron, and a galvanized-iron cornice graced the building’s roofline.

In its early days the Hayes Building, which the Minnesotian called “a substantial ornament to Duluth,” served many functions. A 1906 Duluth News Tribune article described the building’s role in the early 1870s as “sort of [town] headquarters.” Duluth’s Masons turned its third floor into their first lodge. The city’s administrative offices, city council chambers, custom house, and municipal court occupied space in the basement and on the second floor, which also contained offices rented by physicians, real estate firms, an architect. and several attorneys, including judges John D. Ensign and Ozora P. Stearns. Over the years its two retail storefronts along Superior Street were home to the U. S. Post Office, a grocer, a flour and feed store, a harness shop. a furniture store, jewelers, a pharmacy, and the Duluth State Bank.

Rogers’s finances were wiped out when the Chicago Fire destroyed a building he owned that doubled as his family’s home, forcing them to stay in Duluth. Rogers and his family returned to Ohio after the Panic of 1873 and in 1877 he became the private secretary of the new U.S. president, his friend Rutherford Hayes. When Hayes left office, Rogers returned to practicing law until 1888, when he came back to the Zenith City to work as president of Duluth State Bank. Rogers then put forth a bold and popular plan for Duluth’s park system and was named the president of the city’s first Parks Board. Rogers’s vision—a system of corridor parks built along streams connected by a scenic boulevard along the top of the hillside—remains the guiding principal of the city’s remarkable park system.

In May 1905 the Hayes Estate sold the building to a group of Chicago men including Russel Tyson, Arthur Aldis, and H. M. Taber. They demolished the Hayes Block in January 1906 and hired William Hunt to design a brand new building with the same name with a larger footprint but only two stories tall. That building was remodeled in 1923 and again in 2007. It still stands today, but it is considered part of the Wieland Block.