Munger Terrace

Munger Terrace ca. 1892, photographer unknown. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

405 Mesaba Avenue | Architects: Oliver Traphagen & Francis Fitzpatrick | b. 1891 | Extant

In 1889 capitalist Roger Munger, who had invested in just about every Duluth industry since 1869, decided he also wanted to be part of Duluth’s latest building trend and construct a row of grand townhouses designed for the financially elite west of his magnificent home along East Piedmont Avenue, today’s Mesaba Avenue. In fact, the townhouses were called Piedmont Terrace until 1895, when East Piedmont was renamed Mesaba Avenue.

He chose Traphagen & Fitzpatrick to design a townhouse in what is often described as the Châteauesque style, a mix of Victorian and Romanesque Revival with Sixteenth-Century French influences. Faced in cream-colored brick trimmed with contrasting red brownstone quarried at Flag River, Wisconsin, and capped with a mansard roof, the building’s adornments include a pair of turrets (one with a hexagonal roof), corner towers with conical caps, and a mix of square-, Roman-, and segmental-arch window and door portals. Several styles of dormers, some with elaborately carved pediments, protrude from the building’s mansard roof. Its tall central pier is capped with a steeply pitched hip roof, originally topped with iron cresting, that carries two gabled dormers topped with carved pointed pediments, and more stone carvings adorn the structure alng its front façade

Each of the building’s eight apartments occupied four floors and contained sixteen rooms. Each unit’s ground floor held the kitchen, pantry, laundry, dining room, and a reception hall. The second floor was dedicated to dens and parlors, and bedrooms were found on the third and fourth floor. The grounds in front of the building originally contained landscaped walkways and a fountain.

From 1892 to 1895 the building’s three westernmost units became Sacred Heart Academy, originally a school for girls operated by Duluth’s Benedictine nuns that eventually evolved int the College of St. Scholastica. Bishop James McGolrick also lived in Munger Terrace from 1892 to 1894 while the rectory for Sacred Heart Cathedral was under construction. By the time Munger died in 1913, downtown living had lost its appeal among Duluth’s wealthy. The building was sold and two years later divided into thirty-two apartments. Munger Terrace underwent another renovation in 1957 and a major overhaul in 1989. Today it houses low- and moderate income families.

Munger Terrace, photographed by Dennis O’Hara in 2009. (Image: Northern Images)