Sebenius House

The front of the Sebenius House, date and photographer unknown. [Images: Zenith City Press]

4000 London Road | Architect: Unknown | Built: 1907 | Lost: 1933

John Uno Sebenius, a native of Wermland Province, Sweden, spent much of his life concerned with what was under the ground. After graduating Stockholm’s Royal Technical Institute and School of Mining, Sebenious emigrated to the United States in 1888. Four years later he turned thirty years old and moved to Minnesota’s Iron Range, where he developed a cross-sampling technique and a concentrating process for iron ore mining. In 1898—four years after marrying Oakland, California, native Susan Manning—he began working for John D. Rockefeller’s Lake Superior Consolidated Mines. After United States Steel was formed, he served as chief mining engineer and superintendent of exploration for the Oliver Mining Company. But when it came time to build his family a grand estate in Duluth, he was much more concerned with what would live on the grounds than what may lie below them.

Sebenious had become preoccupied with dairy farming and set out to build a model dairy on his grounds, building sterile, concrete barns for cattle even before workers began work on the house. Called Trianon Stock Farms, the property stretched between Thirty-Eighth and Forty-Second Avenues East from London Road to Lake Superior, including one thousand feet of shoreline. Sebenius’s hobby eventually led to the purification of Duluth’s milk supply and ordinances aimed at safeguarding milk sold in the city. The Duluth News Tribune called his cows “some of the finest dairy stock in the country,” and much of the high-quality milk produced on the farm was donated to poor and sick children.

By the time construction began on the family house, the Sebenius’s own children, sons William and Carl, were nine and five years old respectively. Like the barns, the house was built of concrete—in fact, the Duluth News Tribune called it the “first house in Duluth made of concrete.” Faced in light-colored brick, the imposing structure stood two-and-a-half stories tall, featured two hexagonal corner towers, and was capped with a tile roof. Its eclectic design featured some Classical Revival touches, including large porches and second-floor verandas facing Lake Superior and several Roman-arch windows.

Susan Sebenius died in 1918. John Sebenius passed away in Rochester from complications following surgery in 1932, two years after he retired from iron mining. The Lake Shore Lutheran Home purchased the Sebenius property the next year and demolished the house to make room for what is now Ecumen Lakeshore, an independent, assisted living, and memory care facility for the elderly.

The back of the Sebenius House, which faced Lake Superior, date and photographer unknown. [Images: Zenith City Press]