1338 London Road | Architect: Frederick German | b. 1913 | Lost: 1985
Duluthians began curling in the late 1880s and formed the Duluth Curling and Skating Club in 1891, throwing their first stone on Christmas Day that year on a makeshift rink on St. Louis Bay at the foot of Eighth Avenue West. After playing at several locations, the club built a modest rink at Third Avenue East and Michigan Street in 1897. In 1911 the group decided it was time for a more significant facility and purchased land between Thirteenth and Fourteenth Avenues East from London Road to Lake Superior and hired Frederick German to design a curling rink the likes of which the world had never seen.
More than just a curling rink, the vernacular building would offer facilities for all winter “floor” sports—curling, hockey, and ice skating—and include an auditorium that could seat 3,500 in the winter and twice that in the summer, when the rinks were not in use. The two-story structure was 250 feet long by 194 feet wide and made almost entirely of steel and concrete faced with brown brick. Three large arched entryways led inside its rounded, protruding vestibule, and more arches adorned the tops of bays along the building’s east and west sides. Cupolas capped all four corners of its mansard roof.
The first floor contained an ice sheet that held twelve curling rinks, club rooms (one with a large fireplace), bathrooms, spectator galleries, a large banquet hall, kitchen, and janitor’s quarters. A winding staircase led to the second floor, which contained a large hockey and skating rink surrounded by a balcony that sat two thousand as well as home and visiting team locker rooms and women’s facilities. It also included a large bandstand with parabolic reflector that amplified sound throughout the space. The basement contained two large boilers to produce hot water, which made clearer, smoother ice. The Duluth News Tribune called the building the “finest curling rink in the United States.” It was also the largest such facility on the planet.
The club’s 952 members celebrated the building’s opening on January 11, 1913. Besides curling, the facility hosted hockey tournaments, dances, wrestling matches, industrial exhibitions, and even a circus or two. The 1913 facility served Duluth’s curlers and many of its hockey players until 1976, when the Duluth Curling Club moved into new facilities within Pioneer Hall.
After it closed, the 1913 Curling Club became derelict. Uncared for, it soon became the site of unauthorized gatherings of young people, who used it as a place to party. Vandals routinely broke in, and vagrants used it as a place to sleep. A 1979 fire caused severe damage. The club tried to sell the building, but plans for the extension of Interstate 35 through Duluth made that impossible: The building was directly in the highway’s proposed path. A suspected arson fire beat the wrecking ball to the punch, destroying the club on June 3, 1984. Its former location is now a parking lot.