McDougall House

The McDougall House photographed in 1963 by Lyman E. Nylander. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

2201 East 1st Street | Architect: William T. Bray and Carl E. Nystrom | b. 1910 | Extant

Architects Bray & Nystrom dressed up their take on the American Four Square by giving it some Classical Revival flourishes. The two-and-a-half-story house, faced with blond brick and limestone trim, is capped with a hipped roof featuring overhanging eaves braced by faux modillions at the corners. Flared-eave dormers pierce the roof along each façade, with the wall dormer on the front façade breaking through the roofline and flanked by a pair of garland-festooned oval stone medallions. A five-sided porch extends the entire length of the house, welcoming visitors while carrying a balcony above; both are framed by turned balustrades, and the cornice between the porch and the balcony is lined with dentils. The porch was originally supported by four columns with Corinthian capitals, which were replaced with Ionic capitals sometime after 1963. The main entry includes a segmental-arch doorway framed by heavy limestone quoins.

The house was commissioned by widower Alexander McDougall, whose wife, Emmaline, had died in 1908 after they had been married for thirty years. Born on Scotland’s Isle of Islay in 1875, Captain McDougall moved to Canada as a child and in 1861 the sixteen-year-old took his first job as a deckhand on a Great Lakes freighter; by twenty-five he had command of his own ship. For twenty more years he worked the Great Lakes, adopting Duluth as his home. In 1888 he dove headfirst into the shipbuilding industry. He designed and built a steel boat with a flat bottom intended “to carry the greatest cargo on the least water.” He rounded the top deck so water would run off and gave the bow a spoon shape to better cut through water; deck turrets allowed passage inside the ship’s hull. The design earned the vessels the nickname “pig boats,” but McDougall gave them a more noble title: Whalebacks. McDougall’s American Steel Barge Company, first in Duluth and later in Superior, cranked out forty-three vessels by 1898, when the last whaleback built, the Alexander McDougall, was launched. Many of the whaleback’s advances were employed in the modern ore boats that replaced them. After he closed his Superior shipyards, McDougall built a large warehouse along Duluth’s commercial waterfront he named Northern Cold Storage. At the onset of World War I, McDougall, along with Ward Ames Jr. and Julius Barnes, developed the McDougall-Duluth shipyards and its company town, Riverside. McDougall died in 1923. Learn more about Captain McDougall here.

The Alexander McDougall House photographed by Dennis O’Hara in 2009. (Image: Northern Images)

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.