Manhattan Building

The Manhattan Block in 1891, photo etching by lithographer F. B. Schuchardt. [Image: Duluth Public Library]

410 – 416 West Superior Street | Architect: Henry Raeder | Built: 1889 | Lost: 1941

Duluth’s Chamber of Commerce lost its first home in January 1889 when fire destroyed the Grand Opera House. Fortunately, the group was already planning to move, and laborers were already at work on a new building designed by Chicago architects Raeder, Coffin & Crocker. In fact, the building was financed by the Chamber and through subscriptions Henry Raeder sold to Chicago capitalists, working together as the Duluth Chamber of Commerce Company. Raeder’s eclectic High Victorian Gothic design consisted of two almost identical six-story wings separated by an open courtyard but joined by a first-story recessed ogee-arch entrance of elaborately carved stone. The ornate structure was topped near the back with a 140-foot tower complete with turrets and a balcony. It was faced with brick, red tile, sandstone, polished granite, terra-cotta, and copper. Three-story-high pilasters topped with carved capitals decorated both wings.

Construction began in May 1888 but was not complete until March 1890. The Chamber occupied the central portion of the building, including the tower, sharing it with the Polk Directory Company, which published the city’s annual directory. The rest of the building was outfitted with 170 offices and several retail shops along Superior Street.

Beginning in 1887 the Chamber had been financially supported by the city, which paid its chief executive’s salary. That stopped after the Financial Panic of 1893 forced the city to take austerity measures. The Chamber struggled thereafter, forced to sell the building in 1900 and existing in limbo until 1902, when it reorganized as the Duluth Commercial Club.
After the Chamber left, businesses continued to occupy the building’s many offices. By the 1930s its popularity dropped and floors four through six sat vacant. The building was razed in 1941. The next year the two-story Northland Building was built on the site and remains there today.