Sherwood House

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

1125 East Superior Street | Architect: Oliver G. Traphagen | Built: 1886 | Lost: 1956

William C. Sherwood was born in Dartford, Wisconsin, in 1854, one of five children of flour mill owner John R. Sherwood and his wife Jane. The Sherwoods sent both of their sons to college at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, when each were young by today’s college entrance standards: John R. Jr. was just sixteen, and William two years younger. William spent part of the 1870s in Indiana, but just what he did there is unclear. He first arrived in Duluth in 1881 and, according to the Duluth News Tribune, “purchased considerable property and built several houses.” In 1882 the newspaper referred to him as a “lumberman” and noted that he had built a modest cottage on Rice’s Point. During this period he married his wife Amelia in Indiana, where their daughter Marion was born in 1883. A year later he had taken charge of a large granite quarry in Ripon, Wisconsin, not far from his parents’ home. In 1885 the newspaper noted that he had returned to Duluth with his family and intended to stay “and help ‘boom’ the place.”

The Sherwoods rented a home and William reentered Duluth’s real estate market, partnering for a year with Walter Marshall as Sherwood & Marshall before organizing W. C. Sherwood & Co., which sold real estate, mortgage loans, and insurance out of the Metropolitan Block. Sherwood also helped organize Duluth’s Merchant’s Bank, became an active member of the Chamber of Commerce, and was even named an officer of the Duluth Toboggan Club.

In 1886 the Sherwoods hired Oliver Traphagen to draw plans for a grand home at the northwest corner of Twelfth Avenue East and Bench Street (now Superior Street). The home’s mansard roof and elaborate ornamentation are telltale signs of a Second Empire–style building, so-named because it evolved in the midst of the redevelopment of Paris during Napoleon III’s Second French Empire (1852–1870) and was inspired by buildings constructed in France during the Renaissance. The style was popular in the U.S. from 1865 to 1900, but few Second Empire buildings were constructed in Duluth. Traphagen’s take on the style included patterned shingles typical of Queen Ann Victorian homes, a bulls-eye dormer, iron cresting on the roof, and a round corner tower with two balconies and a radish-shaped bell dome.

The Sherwoods lived in their home from 1886 to 1892, after which they moved to another Traphagen-designed house at 2235 Woodland Avenue in Hunter’s Park. In the 1940s their old Superior Street home was subdivided into three apartments and demolished prior to 1951. Today the lot the house once occupied contains a portion of a Walgreens store and its parking lot.