Twin Ports Service Station

The Pure Oil Co. Filling Station, today the home of Sir Benedict’s Tavern, date unknown. [Image: Josh Stotts]

805 East Superior Street | Architect: Unknown | b. 1939 | Extant

James M. Gillespe owned the People’s Oil Company and consequently spent much of his time driving oil tankers along Highway 61 between Pine City sixty miles north of St. Paul and northeastern Minnesota. In 1937 Gillespe got into the business’s retail end, building a filling station along Superior Street just west of the Kitchi Gammi Club. Gillespie himself lived in Pine City, where he built a second service station. His Duluth facility opened in 1940 as the Twin Ports Service Gas Station.

While the station’s architect remains unknown, its blueprints are credited to “People’s Oil Company,” suggesting that perhaps Gillespe himself drew the plans. Whoever designed the Tudor Revival–influenced building made it look much more like a cottage than a repair shop and filling station. The one-story facility, faced with tile and brick, features tall chimneys and a gabled roof topped with blue tiles and a decorative cupola. (The photo below suggests the brick may have been painted white and later sandblasted.). The building had three distinct sections, including an eastern wing that originally held two bays for servicing vehicles.

By 1951 the business had become Jake’s Service, owned and managed by Jake Hemmering. It later became a Pure Oil facility and operated as a gas station and repair shop until 1975, when it was slated to be demolished as part of the expansion of Interstate 35 through Duluth. But in 1978 Jack and Barb Arnold purchased and remodeled the building, reopening it as Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake, a British-style pub whose name was a play on the family’s surname (think “Benedict Arnold”). The Arnold’s pleaded with the state to save the facility, and eventually the highway department altered its plans and the building was retained. While the business has changed ownership many times since then, the building still operates as Sir Benedict’s Tavern.