McLean House

The 1888 McLean House ca. 1930s, photographer unknown [Image: UMD Martin Library]

3 East 4th Street | Architect:  Oliver G. Traphagen | Built: 1888 | Lost: 1939

Depending on newspaper accounts, Canadian immigrant Archibald B. McLean arrived in Duluth in either 1869 or 1871. He was born in Canada to Irish immigrants in 1846 and came to the U.S. at the end of the Civil War. Amateur Duluth historian Jerome Cooley remembered that McLean “was a blacksmith and one of the best horseshoers Duluth ever had.” He was also a very good machinist. By 1874 he and John McLaren had opened a shop called A. B. McLean and Co. on South Lake Avenue, shoeing horses and building and repairing carriages. McLean and his Scottish-immigrant wife Annie, maiden name unknown, married in 1870. Their daughter Sarah was born in Michigan in 1878, suggesting that, like many others, McLean had temporarily abandoned the Zenith City during the economic depression that followed the Panic of 1873.

By the 1880s McLean was back and the business had evolved into a foundry and machine shop, manufacturing engines, boilers, and wood and iron-making machinery. In 1885 Alexander Crawford took McLaren’s spot as McLean’s partner and the firm was renamed McLean & Crawford. That year they ran an ad for their Clyde Steam Engine Works, which made marine and stationary engines and boilers, steam pumps, and mill supplies. In 1888 a group of investors including future mayor Sam Snively purchased the business and renamed it Clyde Iron Works. The firm grew to be one of the largest metal fabricating companies in Duluth history.

After the sale of his business, McLean went back to shoeing horses, working for the city as a blacksmith for the fire department. He and Annie also hired Oliver Traphagen to design for them a elegant Queen Ann Victorian home on a lot on the northeast corner of Lake Avenue and East Fourth Street. The house included a three-story turret capped with a conical roof and covered in fish-scale shingles. Its front porch had circular openings, and above it sat a half tower with an open porch. The building included a profusion of decorative stick work and wood panels.

Archie lived to be seventy-one, dying in 1917; Annie remained in the house until her death at eighty-five years old in 1936. The McLean’s daughter, Sarah Grant, occupied the house until it was demolished in 1939; a modern townhouse now occupies the lot.

Archibald B. & Annie McLean House. (Image: Duluth Public Library)