McGiffert House

The McGiffert House photographed ca. 1914 by Hugh McKenzie. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

2324 E. Fifth Street | Architect: Anthony Puck | Built: 1912 | Extant

New Yorker John Rutherford McGiffert was twenty-five when he arrived in Duluth in 1892, fresh law degree from NewYork University in hand and ready to practice. But, as historian Walter Van Brunt pointed out, throughout his education and the early years of his career, McGiffert “found time to encourage his inventive genius and allowed it more or less full scope.” One of his inventions was for a steam-powered machine that loaded logs onto trains and sleighs. At the same time, Duluth’s Clyde Iron Company, which made boilers and engines, was reorganizing as Clyde Iron Works to focus on manufacturing logging equipment. McGiffert showed Clyde’s officers his idea, and they bought it—and hired McGiffert. Almost at once the McGiffert Log Loader “completely revolutionized the log handling industry.” McGiffert eventually obtained more than twenty other patents covering different types of logging machinery. In 1902 he became superintendent of Clyde’s logging machinery department and later served as treasurer and secretary and then vice-president in general charge of design and construction.

Along the way McGiffert married fellow New Yorker Gertrude Yates. Between their wedding in 1896 and 1908, the McGifferts welcomed five children, and in 1911 they decided to build their large family a new home along the lower 2300 block of East Fifth Street. Architect Anthony Puck designed the McGifferts a two-story Federal Rival home faced in red brick. A derivative of Georgian Revival, Federal Revival or “Adams” style was extremely popular in the eastern U.S. between 1780 and 1830. The McGiffert House includes a style-defining truncated side-gabled roof originally crowned with a delicate wooden balustrade. Three hipped dormers poke through the roof along its Fifth Street front façade, and a row of dentils runs below its eaves. Duluth architectural historian Deb Kellner described the house’s centrally located main entrance in her 2009 study of the house, noting that it “consists of a square portico with round columns and pilasters and an entablature with dentils and wrought iron railing below an impressive window consisting of a multi-light, double hung window with side lights, pilasters and an arched plaster hood.”

John and Gertrude remained in the home the rest of their lives, with John passing in 1949 when he was eighty years old and Gertrude dying in 1961 at age ninety-four. The house still serves Duluth as a single-family residence.

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.