Mershon House

The Mershon house in 1910, photographer unknown. [Image: Duluth Public Library]

1730 E. Superior Street | Architect: Peter Olsen | Built: 1909 | Extant

The Mershon House was another wedding present built for a daughter of Joseph and Ophelia Sellwood, who in 1891 had given their oldest daughter Elizabeth and her husband Charles Morrow a grand Victorian home at 1814 East Superior Street which still stands. The Sellwoods lived next door at 1802 East Superior Street (demolished prior to 1955). In 1902 the Sellwoods had the Leithhead house built for their daughter Ophelia and her husband Leslie. Laura Sellwood, who went by “LaRue,” was a vice-president for her brother-in-law’s Leithhead Drug Company when she married Charles Mershon, treasurer of Duluth’s United Grain Company, in 1909. By 1920 they had adopted three children they named Charles E., Larue, and Richard for LaRue’s brother.

Built on the southeast corner of Eighteenth Avenue East and Superior Street—across the avenue from the other Sellwood-connected homes—the Mershon House was designed by Duluth’s Peter Olsen, who began his Duluth career as a draftsman for William Bray and, after retiring in 1952, spent ten years teaching at the Duluth Area Vocational-Technical Institute. Olsen took an asymmetrical approach to French Eclecticism: rather than the style’s typical symmetrical door and window layout and steeply pitched hipped roof lined with rows of dormers and lacking a front-facing gable, the Mershon House’s roof covers only the attic level, and the front entrance portico is set off to the western side of the house, next to a wing with a front-facing gable outfitted with returns and ornate corbels. The portico itself is topped with a segmental arch also with returns, supported by both Corinthian columns and corbels similar to those on the wing gable; the arrangement of segmental arches with returns and corbels is echoed in a dormer erupting from the roof. Three similar dormers facing east, south, and west emerge from the roof over a wing off the southern end of the house, while on the eastern and western façades flared gable wall dormers break through not only the roof but also the roofline to the second floor below. The house is faced in yellow brick and includes a massive porch supported by brick piers that wraps from the front of the house around to its eastern side. Above on the second floor the porch’s roof becomes a veranda surrounded by a stone balustrade, and heavy quoins and keystoned lintels case the windows.

Charles Mershon died on Valentine’s day 1939; LaRue moved out in 1950, after which the house became the property of Duluth’s Lutheran Welfare Society, now Lutheran Social Services. The Human Development Center purchased the house in 2006 and sold it six years later to the Morning Star Birthing center. The house is now a mutliplex of apartments and professional offices.

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.