On this day in Duluth in 1886, the Duluth Board of Trade officially moved into its new headquarters at 302–304 West Superior Street. Made of pressed brick and red Fond du Lac sandstone with terra cotta trim, the building was one of the last in Duluth designed by George Wirth before he turned his firm over to his construction supervisor, Oliver Traphagen. Moreover, the opening of the building marked a milestone in Duluth’s history: thanks a great deal to the grain trade (along with the lumber and coal trade), the Zenith City had finally pulled itself out of the financial hole it found itself in following the Financial Panic of 1873. In 1880 Duluth had just 3,500 citizens and moved about 1.5 million bushels of wheat. A year later, enough grain was moving through the port that Duluth formed its own board of trade consisting of 12 members. Four years after that, Duluth handled 15 million bushels of wheat and 18,000 people called the Zenith City home—200 of them members of the Board of Trade. The Duluth Weekly News reported a telegram sent January 2 by the ex-president of the Chicago Board of Trade under the headline “Chicago gives it up.” The story quoted Hobbs, “I believe that Chicago has ceased to be the principal wheat center of the Northwest.” He then explained that Duluth would soon eclipse Chicago in grain traffic because the wheat fields of Minnesota, Nebraska, and Dakota Territory were simply closer to Duluth than to Chicago, while Chicago and Duluth were relatively the same distance from all great lakes port cities east of Lake Michigan. Indeed, when Duluth’s grain elevators A and Q were destroyed by fire the following year, prices for Chicago wheat rose dramatically. Read more about the first Duluth Board of Trade building here.
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