Lincoln Elementary

Lincoln Elementary School photographed in the 1890s, photographer unknown. [Image: Herb Dillon]

2427 West Fourth Street | Architects: Palmer & Hall | Built: 1889 | Altered: Repeatedly

Architects Palmer & Hall apparently tweaked their plans for the 1888 Franklin Elementary to design Lincoln Elementary in the city’s booming West End, which was sorely needed to take pressure off Adams Elementary. When first built, Lincoln was a twelve-room, two-and-a-half-story Romanesque Revival building faced with brick and trimmed with sandstone from the Flag River Quarry along Lake Superior’s Wisconsin South Shore. Its central tower stood taller than its Central Hillside counterpart, and its window opening were larger. It featured fewer pepper-pot turrets, and they were simpler in design and capped with conical roofs. Columns helped give the main entry arch a keyhole look.

The school was first opened in January 1890, but just months later newspapers referred to the facility as “crowded.” That soon became the least of Superintendent Robert Denfeld’s concerns with the new school. In April a truant officer at Lincoln met with Denfeld and reported that Principal Harry M. Phipps had committed crimes upon male students the Duluth News Tribune called “too filthy and heinous for publication.” Denfeld dismissed Phipps one hour after receiving the report. Phipps was never charged with a crime because, as the newspapers explained, “there [was] no statute on which he [could] be arraigned.” He never again taught in Duluth.

By 1904 the school building’s classrooms had become so cramped an addition was made—one of many that would occur over the next one hundred years. A junior high school was constructed behind Lincoln in 1915 and connected to the elementary school through a simple corridor. Work in 1930 added a wing to the east of the main building that housed shop classes and music programs. In 1951, Lincoln was severely remodeled: the tower was removed, the roof flattened, and two three-story wings were added. Today the work of architects Palmer and Hall has either been removed or completely hidden.

Lincoln closed in 2011 as part of the Duluth School District’s Long Range Facilities Plan. Originally destined for demolition, the building received a new lease on life when Minneapolis developers Sherman Associates purchased it for one dollar in 2011 and worked with the Housing and Redevelopment Authority of Duluth and Duluth Local Initiatives Support Corporation to find ways to adapt the building so it can continue to serve Duluth’s West End, also known since the 1990s as Lincoln Park.