Liethead House

The Leithead House ca. 1910, photographer unknown. [Image: Zenith City Press]

16 South 18th Avenue East | Architect: William A. Hunt | b. 1902 | Extant

Duluth entered the wholesale drug business in 1893 when Charles Sagar, Guilford Hartley, Fred Patrick, and others incorporated Sagar Drug. Pharmacist Leslie Walworth Leithhead, a native Canadian, first learned his trade in Montreal and then Winnipeg before arriving in Duluth in 1896, where he bought an interest in Sagar Drug and was named its vice-president. By 1898 the firm had reorganized as Leithhead Drug, with Leithhead at the helm as president. The company continued to sell wholesale drugs, lotions, and chemicals, and expanded with Leithhead’s own line of veterinary medicines. The company served retailers in Minnesota, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, northern Wisconsin, and North and South Dakota. Meanwhile, Leithhead immersed himself in Duluth society, joining the Kitchi Gammi Club, the Commercial Club, and Northland Country Club and marrying Ophelia Sellwood, daughter of prominent capitalist Captain Joseph Sellwood and his wife, also named Ophelia, in 1902.

As a wedding gift, Captain and Mrs. Sellwood hired architects Palmer, Hall & Hunt to design the newlyweds a new home at the southwest corner of Eighteenth Avenue East and Greysolon Road. The massive home, faced in randomly coursed red brownstone from Flag River, Wisconsin, is one of just a handful of Châteauesque style buildings, along with Munger Terrace and Duluth Union Depot, to grace the Zenith City. The three-story home is adorned with two round corner towers with conical roofs topped with finials, a two-story double-stack bay window that supports a third-floor balcony, a grand entrance portico/porch, and a veranda whose stone wall makes the house appear even larger than it is. Clay tiles originally covered its towers and gambrel roof.

By 1912 the Liethheads had welcomed two sons, Leslie L. and James. That year Leithhead Drug became Northern Drug, which survived until 1997; Mr. Liethhead passed in 1941, and Ophelia died six years later. Today the building is a group home operated as Arrowhead House East.

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