Washburn Hall

Washburn Hall (top) and Torrence Hall in 1947, photographer unknown. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

2305 East 5th Street | Clarence Johnston, Architect | Built: 1906 | Extant

Jed Washburn, namesake of Duluth’s Washburn Elementary School, was serving as a regent for the State Normal School Board in 1905 when he pushed for an appropriation to build a women’s dormitory for the Duluth State Normal School. The measure was intended to help the school better serve northeastern Minnesota by providing living facilities for students who did not live in the Zenith City, which would also increase the school’s enrollment beyond the 1904 total of 161. The building was specified as a women’s dorm because very few men enrolled in the Normal School. When the money was approved, including $6,000 donated by Washburn, officials decided to name the facility for its biggest booster.

State architect Clarence Johnston’s dormitory design combined Classical Revival, Colonial Revival, and Italianate elements. Washburn Hall is a three-story orange brick building with red stone detailing. Its front façade includes a central “tower” above an entrance portico supported by Doric columns. Roman arch windows—three on each side of the entrance—grace the first-story level, while the third floor is actually the attic level, with dormers peaking out from its hipped roof. Originally intended to serve twenty-five students, the final plans called for twenty-four double occupancy rooms to serve forty-eight students and included laundry, bath, kitchen, and dining facilities. In 1938, with enrollment of men increasing as the school evolved into a more traditional university, Washburn Hall was converted into a men’s dormitory.

Students continued to live in Washburn Hall long after most of the school was relocated to the upper campus in the 1950s.  Modern Vision Media later purchased Washburn Hall, and it too was converted into an apartment complex.

Washburn Hall. (Image: Zenith City Press)