Peyton House

The Peyton House ca. 1895, photographer unknown. [Image: Duluth Public Library]

1329 East Superior Street | Architect: Traphagen & Fitzpatrick | Built: 1893 | Lost: 1932

It took more than a financial depression to frighten away Hamilton Peyton. The Geneva, New York, native was twenty years old when he graduated Rutgers College in 1855. Three years later he traveled to Superior, Wisconsin, in the immediate wake of the Panic of 1857 to establish a bank, and the next year built a small sawmill on Connor’s Point. Neither operation enjoyed much business until the sawmill began producing lumber for Duluth’s 1869 to 1873 building boom, which came to a halt with the Panic of 1873. Peyton and his wife, Martha, moved their large family across the bay to Duluth two years later, while the city was still mired in debt. In 1879 Peyton, with help from Angus MacFarlane, reorganized John Hunter’s failing Duluth Savings Bank, resurrecting it as the highly successful American Exchange Bank In 1881 he formed Peyton, Kimball & Barber and built a much larger mill, which operated until 1905. He remained at the helm of the American Exchange Bank the rest of his life.

In the middle of yet another financial crisis—the Panic of 1893—construction crews began building a new home for the Peytons just east of Chester Creek along Superior Street, across the stream from the Hartley House. Architects Traphagen & Fitzpatrick had dreamed up a massive three-story Shingle-style house whose first-floor level and porte cochère—faced entirely in rough-hewn brownstone—had a distinct Gothic or Romanesque feel. The rest of the house, including several narrow, gabled dormers that protruded from its steeply pitched roof, was covered in shingles.

By the time the Peytons moved into the house, most of their children had left home. After Martha passed away in 1918, Hamilton stayed in the house until his own death ten years later. This time Hamilton Peyton managed to avoid the biggest financial panic of them all: The stock market crash of 1929. Fortunately, his American Exchange Bank and the Duluth National Bank merged shortly after his death. The new bank, along with every other bank in Duluth, survived the Great Depression. After Hamilton died, the Peyton house sat empty until 1932, when it was demolished to make room for a Seventh Day Adventist Church. The church is now a book and antiques store.