Wieland Block

The Wieland Block shown in an 1891 photo etching by lithographer F. B. Schuchardt. [Image: Duluth Public Library]

24–26 East Superior Street | Architect: Oliver Traphagen | Built: 1889 | Extant

Christian Wieland helped survey the Minnesota North Shore of Lake Superior in the early 1850s and was so impressed by the area surrounding the mouth of the Beaver River that he convinced his four bothers and other German immigrants in Maumee, Ohio, to build a community at Beaver Bay. According to the diary of Reverend James Peet, within six weeks of their arrival the Wielands and their friends had “built two shanties, seven houses, chopped twelve acres…made seven miles of road, and cut twelve tons of wild hay.”

The Wielands set their sites on Duluth in the late 1870s. From 1878 until 1895, Ernst and George operated a tannery on a site that is now home to the Corps of Engineers Building and Grandma’s Saloon & Deli, Albert ran a shoe and boot store along West Superior Street, and Henry and Paul established H. P. Wieland & Co., a furniture and coffin store, in 1883. H. P. Wieland operated out of a small wood-frame building at 24 East Superior Street from 1884 to 1887, when the business was purchased by the Rainey & French Furniture Company, lead by George A. French. The next year the business temporarily relocated while the Wielands began constructing a larger store on the same site.

Architect Oliver Traphagen’s plans called for a four-story Romanesque Revival building faced with orange brick and trimmed with rough-hewn brownstone. The building features Roman-arch windows along the fourth floor and segmental arches on the windows of the east and west bays along the second. The central bay along Superior Street included a recessed entrance, and the building was capped by a bold cornice with four squat towers. Along Superior Street, the first two floors held retail stores while the upper levels served as residential flats. Its first two retail tenants were Henry Beier’s carpeting and drapery shop out of 26 and French’s furniture store operating out of 24 and the entire second floor. In 1892 the furniture store became known as French & Bassett and moved into a new building of its own along First Street the next year.

In 1901 the building became the home of the Duluth News Tribune. Between 1907 and 1921, the building’s retail space at 24 served as the home to three movie houses: the Star, Majestic, and Diamond theaters. The newspaper moved to the Herald Building in the 1930s after the papers fell under the same ownership. The Wieland Block then housed a number of printing businesses until 1947, when French & Bassett returned as French-Bassett & Scott Furniture. The business became Grand Rapids Furniture in 1957 but was gone by 1970, replaced by a trading stamp store and later Goodwill. The building was renovated in 2002 along with the 1905 Hayes Block, and today both buildings are together called the Wieland Block.