Stowe Elementary

The first Stowe Elementary School photographed ca. 1915 by Hugh McKenzie. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

132 East McCuen Street | Architect: unknown | Built: 1892 | Lost: Date Unknown

A consortium of investors lead by Charles Lovett incorporated the Village of New Duluth in 1891, two years after he had first visited the area in 1889 and recognized it as “the largest body of level ground on the Minnesota side adjacent to Duluth.” His New Duluth Land Company lured two sawmills, a sash-and-door factory, a furniture factory, a refrigerator plant, and Atlas Iron & Brass Works. The land company put infrastructure in place, building roads, houses, retail stores, hotels, and churches by the fall of 1891. The next year it built a school on the southeast corner of Ninety-Seventh Avenue West and McCuen Street, named for village recorder Dr. John A. “Doc” McCuen, who later served as Duluth’s mayor from 1912 to 1913.

The school itself was simply called New Duluth School. The square, two-story Romanesque Revival structure was clad in brick and trimmed in brownstone with a square tower with a pyramidal cap protruding from the northwest corner. Other than the tower and some arched brickwork on the tower and attic gables protruding from its square hipped roof, the building was unadorned. The building’s unknown architect outfitted it with two classrooms on each floor designed to contain a total of 168 students.

The New Duluth School first opened September 12, 1892, with three teachers instructing grades one through six. The following April the Duluth News Tribune described the school as “flourishing.” That September increased enrollment forced the hiring of a new teacher, Sarah A. Smith, who would serve the school for decades to come as both teacher and principal. But that same year came the Panic of 1893, setting off a nationwide depression. Most of New Duluth’s industries failed, and in order to survive the village was willfully annexed by the Zenith City in 1895, as were Fond du Lac and other communities platted along the St. Louis River beyond West Duluth. While most schools acquired through annexation retained the names of the villages that built them, the school’s teachers asked the school board to rename the building for American author Harriet Beecher Stowe—the first Duluth school named for a woman.

Smith became principal in 1904, after the school expanded class offerings to include grades seven and eight. Three years later United States Steel announced it would build a steel plant on land in New Duluth and Spirit Lake Park. The northern portion of the New Duluth property was renamed Gary. When the steel plant opened in 1915, Gary and New Duluth swelled with new residents. The school board replaced Stowe Elementary with a larger edifice in 1915, built at 715 101st Avenue West. The first Stowe Elementary school has since been replaced with single-family house.