August 3, 1891: Grand opening of Duluth’s Lyceum Theatre

On this day in Duluth in 1891, the Lyceum Theatre—designed by renown Duluth architect Oliver Traphagen and his partner Francis Fitzpatrick—opened at  423 West Superior Street. The Duluth News-Tribune called the structure the “handsomest and costliest building in all the Northwest” and “the temple of the muses.” Operatic soprano Emma Abbott performed that opening night, starring in the comedy Mrs. Wilkenson’s Widow. Eight years earlier, Miss Abbott had been in town to perform during the opening night of the Grand Opera House, designed by George Wirth, Traphagen’s former employer and mentor (the Grand Opera House burned in 1889; the Lyceum was equipped with an asbestos curtain to help avoid the same fate). The newspaper called opening night “the most brilliant event of the kind that has ever taken place in Duluth,” adding that “Never before at any social event were so many rich costumes, beautiful ladies and decollette dresses seen.” [A decollate dress bares the neck and shoulders, which was considered by many scandalous in the 1890s; “decollate” is french for “behead”.] The Lyceum was financed by Andreas M. Miller, who served as Duluth’s village president in 1877 and considered one of the wealthiest men in the Zenith City in the 1880s. When he died, Mr. Miller left $600,000 to Duluth to fund a public hospital that would become known as Miller Memorial Hospital, later Miller-Dwan.

The Lyceum Theatre. (Image: Duluth Public Library)ceum