Hunter House

The Hunter House’s front façade ca. 1965, photographer unknown. [Image: Minnesota Historical Society]

2317 Woodland Avenue | Architect:Unknown | Built: 1892 | Extant

The second oldest of seven children of John and Catherine Hunter, Ronald Hunter was born in 1856, the very year the Hunter family emigrated from Scotland to Kalamazoo, Michigan. The family moved to Minnesota after the Financial Panic of 1857, coming to Duluth in 1869. In the Zenith City Ronald worked for his father’s hardware store and later his Duluth Savings Bank before they entered the real estate game with his brother-in-law Angus MacFarlane in the 1880s. In the early 1890s MacFarlane, John, and John’s brother James developed three neighborhoods along Woodland Avenue, including Hunter’s Park.

In 1888 Ronald married Pennsylvania native Catherine Josephine Earhart and the couple welcomed three sons by 1893, John, Laurin, and James. Two years before James’s birth, Ronald and Catherine built a Gothic Revival home on five acres of land along Woodland Avenue near Tischer’s Creek. Faced in native black basalt taken from nearby Hunter’s Hill and trimmed with locally quarried brownstone, the two-story house features Gothic Revival elements including heavy quoins along the corners and window surrounds, patterned brick chimneys, and a multigabled roof topped with iron cresting. Its asymmetrical front façade includes a large porch and a Roman-arch window. Oddly enough, the Gothic Revival house has no Gothic-arch openings, but it does include indicative twin triangular Anglo-Saxon windows within the front gable’s half-timbered peak. Inside, the 3,500-square-foot house has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and five fireplaces. Renowned architectural historian Roger G. Kennedy has suggested that Ronald Hunter himself designed the house. The same black basalt faces Glen Avon Presbyterian Church and the former Hunter’s Park Grocery, built at 2301 Woodland Avenue in 1893 and known as the Snow White from 1944 until the early 1990s.

The Hunter House’s northwest façade ca. 1936, photographer unknown. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

The Hunters dammed portions of Tischer Creek to create what was called Hunter’s Pond. Sadly, in 1897 the Hunter’s son John, named for the family patriarch, drowned in the pond. According to Hunter’s Park historian Heidi Bakk-Hansen, “The Hunters in their grief drained the pond, restoring the creek to its original banks.” Ronald and Catherine moved in 1920, after which they lived in a number of Duluth houses before settling into rooms at the Berkshire apartment building at 731 East First Street. Ronald died in 1937 and Catherine in 1956 when she was ninety-six years old.

The house has since been home to at least seven owners, including the families of Minnesota Steel Plant president Samuel B. Sheldon (1927–1930), Dr. Benjamin F. Davis (1931–1939), and attorney James Prest and his wife Libby. The Prests purchased the house in 1960 and lived in it for
sixty years, putting it up for sale in December 2021. New owners were making the 1892 house their home as this book went to press in 2022.

The back of the Hunter House in 1926, photographer unknown. [Image: UMD Martin Library]