Prescott House

The Prescott House shown in an 1891 photo etching by lithographer F. B. Schuchardt. [Image: Duluth Public Library]

4831 West 5th Street | Architect: Unknown | Built: 1890 | Lost: ca. 1944

While Duluth’s East End is known for its grand estates, one of the most striking Victorian homes in Duluth, the Prescott House, was constructed in West Duluth. The house exemplified the exuberance of the Queen Anne style, sporting two towers, an encircling veranda, stained-glass windows, gables with bargeboards, a third-story balcony, patterned brick chimneys, finials, iron cresting, brackets, and lots of decorative stick work. The Duluth News Tribune explained that it would be “decorated with light yellow paint trimmed in drab, which gives a soft and pleasing affect to the eye and conforms in tone to the general architecture of the building.” The home’s unidentified architect outfitted its interior with hand-carved panels of South American hardwoods, elaborate staircases, five fireplaces, inlaid floors, imported English earthenware plumbing, stained-glass windows, and zinc bathtubs. Even the closets boasted hand-carved wood panels. The house’s entire third floor was a grand ballroom, and in the first floor reception room a gold-plated, flower-engraved wash basin awaited guests who had traveled dusty roads in horse-drawn carriages.

D. Clinton Prescott was born in Illinois in 1841 and lived in northern Wisconsin where he founded the Marinette Iron Works, manufacturers of sawmill machinery. In 1890 he moved the plant to West Duluth, which was then being developed as a large industrial center. That same year he had the house built for himself, his wife Sarah, and their large family, who moved into their home in June 1891. The Prescotts lived in the spectacular house for just five years, moving to Chicago in the wake of the Financial Panic of 1893. Hansen Evesmith, one-time president of the Duluth Chamber of Commerce, purchased the house in 1896, living there until until about 1910. In 1914 Thomas F. Feigh purchased the house and offered it to the Duluth Catholic Diocese to house a children’s hospital, but the diocese chose another location.

Thereafter the house remained vacant and became known to area residents as the “Haunted House.” St. Louis County then took over the home, placing it on the delinquent tax list. Elmer J. Woefler bought the deserted building from the county in 1944 for $1,500 and dismantled it. Many parts of the house—including three of its fireplaces—were used in a house Woellfer built for himself along Highway 61 in Duluth at Rest Point. He also built some tourist cabins at that site with materials salvaged from the Prescott House. Other homes were built on the house’s lot by the 1950s.