December 8, 1915: Duluth rejects plans to sell old Armory

On this day in Duluth in 1915, three of Duluth’s five commissioners rejected a plan to sell the Third Regiment Armory, unneeded for military use now that Duluth had a brand new National Guard Armory on London Road. Instead, they backed an idea by D. A. Reed, manager of Duluth’s water and light department, to remodel the 1896 armory into the headquarters for his department. Reed estimated it would save the city $5,000 annually on the cost of renting another facility—about $120,000 a year in today’s dollars. The issue became heated the following February, when the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, better known as the Shriners, offered to purchase the building for $50,000—and the council voted yes. Opponents of the sale attempted to put the measure up to vote in a referendum election that spring, but the effort failed to gain support, and by summer the building had become Duluth’s Shrine Auditorium. Over the years the Shriners both used the building and rented it to others. In 1930 it was the also home to the Duluth Automobile Club and several car and truck dealers; later it would house Zenith City Buick. Today it is owned by Youth for Christ and is currently for sale. Read its entire history here. In 1921 Duluth built a building for its Water & Gas division at 420 West First Street.

The 1896 Third Regiment Armory, photographed some time in the 1890s. (Image: Duluth Public Library)