July 10, 1869: Brewery owner buys building to open saloon

On this day in Duluth in 1869, Nicholas Decker purchased property at 31 West Superior Street to open a saloon to sell his beer. In the mid 1860s Decker had purchased Duluth’s first brewery, built on Washington Avenue along Brewery Creek in 1859 by Gottlieb Busch andand financed by Sidney Luce (later Duluth’s third mayor). In 1869 Duluth was undergoing a major population boom—from “12 families” in 1868 to over 3,100 people in 1870—and with the saloon Decker could sell his beer at retail process, increasing his profits. But the saloon was a magnet for trouble. In August a fight that started in the saloon—with Decker himself at the center of the conflict—ended in the city’s first murder. A few months later Decker tired to sell his brewery to another pioneer, J. D. Ray, but the deal fell through. Decker died of consumption in 1875 and the brewery sat idle until Mike Fink purchased it in 1877. When Fink built his Lake Superior Brewery (which would become Fitger’s brewery) in 1881, his sons Nick Jr. and Benjamin tried operating the 1859 brewery for a few years and later became farmers in Hermantown. Read more about the Decker family here, and the entire history of beer brewing in Duluth and Superior here.

This ad for Nicholas Decker’s Duluth Brewery appeared in the Duluth Minnesotian in 1869. (Zenith City Press)