Holland House Hotel

The Holland House Hotel ca. 1910, photographer unknown. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

501 West Superior Street | Architect: Bray & Nystrom | Built: 1910 | Lost: ca. 1965

Like the Lenox Hotel, the Holland House was built to take advantage of the nearby Soo Line passenger train station, which opened one block east of the hotel in October 1910, three months after the hotel first started receiving guests. Built by real estate investor Samuel Levin, the Holland House was a hotel of “most exclusive class,” according to newspapers of the day. Designed by William Bray and Carl Nystrom, the building originally stood six stories high, constructed with steel beams and reinforced concrete foundation, walls, and floors intended to take on an additional four stories. The Duluth News Tribune called it the “first concrete building in the city.” The Holland was handsomely faced with red brick and topped with a grand cornice with wide eaves, but otherwise modestly adorned. The hotel originally offered 150 guest rooms, 75 of them with their own bathrooms. Its owner boasted it was thoroughly modern, completely waterproof, and that each guest room had its own telephone.

Originally managed by Saul Goldberg, the Holland experienced immediate success, particularly its restaurant. Lunch at the Holland House Café was a big success with local businessmen, and the News Tribune reported that “it is a common sight to see more than a hundred of our well known citizens gathered around the Holland luncheon table during the noon hour” while “the 6-o’clock dinners and after-theater suppers [the Lyceum stood just across Fifth Avenue East] are occasions of great pomp and popularity.” One traveling businessmen called it “the best cafe between Chicago and Spokane.” It featured a large dining room with walls adorned by fresco murals depicting Lake Superior scenes. The “Gentleman’s Grill” dining room was truly a sign of its time: Designated for use by men conducting business, it did not allow women diners. The Holland was so popular that just a year after it opened Levin and Goldberg decided to add four more stories to the building, making it a “skyscraper” in the eyes of the News Tribune staff. The numbers of guest rooms increased, and the hotel boasted that each had a “genuine outside exposure”—a view that looked out over streets, not a courtyard.

In 1919 the News Tribune declared the Holland, Lenox, Spalding, and St. Louis the city’s “top four hotels” and called the Holland House an “architectural model” for modern hostelries. The following year Levin sold the hotel to Newcomb and Co., which also owned the Spalding. The company built a tunnel under Superior Street between the two hotels. Made of reinforced concrete, the tunnel was designed to carry conduits for steam pipes to heat both hotels using one set of furnaces and was also used by employees to move between the hotels while avoiding street traffic. It sat eighteen feet below street surface—six feet below basements of each hotel—and also carried city gas and water mains. Newspapers called it “Duluth’s first subway.”

Like other surrounding hotels, by the 1950s the Holland House had become a residential hotel; it closed in 1961 and was demolished in 1966 as part of the Gateway Urban Renewal Project. Duluth’s cylindrical Radisson Hotel, with its revolving rooftop restaurant, was built on the Holland House lot in 1970.