Security and Guaranty Blocks

The Security Block (left) and Guaranty Block in 1891, photo etching by lithographer F. B. Schuchardt. [Image: Duluth Public Library]

Security | 1889 216 W. Superior St. | Architects: Palmer & Hall | Built: 1889 | Extant

Guaranty: | 1890 218 W. Superior St. | Architects: Palmer & Hall | Built: 1890 | Extant

History has left behind very little information about the Security and Guaranty Blocks. We do know that the Security was first managed by the contracting firm Watterworth & Fee, which built the 1889 Lincoln Elementary school and likely both the Security and Guaranty. Whoever built them hired architects Palmer & Hall to design a pair of modestly sized Romanesque Revival buildings faced with brownstone.

The two-story Security Block featured three Roman-arch entries capped with ogee-arch stone hoods separated by pilasters topped with intricately carved capitals, providing a French or Venetian Gothic touch. The building’s crowning entablature included a carved stone frieze that looked like a row of eyes below a row of dentils topped with a grate-like cornice. Charles Clague and William Prindle’s real estate, insurance, and mortgage loan business originally occupied the first floor, with attorneys Jacques & Hudson and contractor J. A. Robert renting offices above. Alex Zurvosky and Israel Oreck operated their Smoke Shop out of the retail space from 1925 to the late 1930s. The building then housed the Paul Bunyon Bar & Grill through the 1980s and other business including Silks Billiards, Canton’s Café, and Ringside Billiards. It has been a bus shelter for the Duluth Transit Authority since the late 1980s.

The Guaranty Block, which stands a story taller than its eastern neighbor, featured Roman-arch windows on the second and third floors, carved pilasters trimming the windows, and a pair of pepperpot turrets framing its heavy cornice. The original tenants of the upper floors included attorneys Wayland W. Sanford and H. R. Spencer and the National Live Stock Insurance Co.,while the Phillips & Company boot and shoe store operated the retail space along Superior Street until 1905, when owner Thomas Phillips purchased the Duluth Shoe Company and retired from retail. By 1925 Duluth Floral had taken over the retail space and stayed until the 1940s. The building became the home of the Minnesota Surplus Store in 1950 and remains so today.