Marshall Alworth was born in Oneida County, New York, in 1846. He left home at age fourteen to work on the Great Lakes and eventually became a land and timber explorer in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. He was in Duluth as early as 1873 but left after the financial crisis of that year. He married Nellie LaVeigne in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1878 and they moved to Duluth in 1882. Together they raised seven children, including Royal Alworth, who also rose to prominence in the Zenith City.
Alworth purchased extensive mining lands on Minnesota’s Iron Range and formed the Alworth Mining and Development Company in 1893, the same year the house was built. Mining wealth followed, and Alworth invested in real estate in Duluth, including the Alworth Building on Superior Street—then and now the tallest building in Duluth—which he financed for $500,000 in 1910. The sixteen-story building took just nine months to build, and most of that work took place over the winter. When it was complete, the Duluth News Tribune called it “a cosmopolitan office building, one that dwarfs the Tower of Babel” and “an epoch in the architectural history of Duluth.”