December 20, 1891: Dedication of Duluth’s new First Presbyterian Church

On this day in Duluth in 1891, officials dedicated the new First Presbyterian Church at 300 East Second Street, a masterpiece of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture faced in Lake Superior brownstone and designed by Oliver Traphagen and his new partner, Francis Fitzpatrick. Organized June 1, 1869, First Presbyterian was Duluth’s first established church. In 1870 the congregation built a wooden gothic church at 201 East Second Street, a building that served the congregations of other churches until its demolition in 1971. The 1891 building, with seating for over 1,000 worshippers, features stone carvings on its exterior by the Zenith City’s master carver George Thrana and a Tiffany stained-glass window by Duluth’s Ann Weston. The window, titled Ships at Sea, was made in 1920 to honor the memory of Annie Laurie Adams—a person of mystery to us now, but one who we hope to find more about in the future. The window shows three ships with the Latin names Spes, Amor and Felicitas, which translate to Hope, Love, and Faith. At the time it was built, the church was at the heart of Duluth’s most affluent neighborhood, and the area in and around downtown Duluth once included large churches representing every denomination that had a parish inside the city. First Presbyterian is the last standing representative church of that era and one of the few remaining Traphagen designs remaining in Duluth, and it is a still a visual delight both inside and out. If you get a chance to see inside, take it!

The 1891 First Presbyterian Church, photographed in 2009 by Dennis O’Hara. (Image: Northern Images)