July 7, 1883: Duluth Daily News complains about new county courthouse

On this day in Duluth in 1883, the Duluth Daily News lamented the fact that St. Louis County couldn’t replace its brand new courthouse “for a dozen years to come.” The paper was off by fourteen years, as the building would not be replaced until 1909. Prior to 1883 Duluth had no municipal facilities at the time—no courthouse, no city hall. The business of the city was conducted within rented commercial space until 1889, and the “county courthouse” was wherever judge John Carey had set up house. A bonding effort to raise funds for a both a courthouse and city hall had failed to pass. Instead, the county hired noted architect George Wirth to draw up arguably the ugliest building he ever designed. While local papers called for a grand brownstone building “that the Zenith City can point to with pride for years to come,” the facility constructed at 611 East Second Street was an unremarkable wood frame building faced in brick described by the Daily News as “nothing especially imposing or handsome.” Almost immediately the business of the county overwhelmed the modest size of the building, and for the next twenty eight years haphazard additions expanded its footprint as the local population grew. The additions led to the building’s nickname: “The Warthouse.” So why did it take until 1909 to replace the courthouse? Find out by reading its entire history here, and that of the building that replaced it here.

The 1883 St. Louis County Courthouse, photographed ca. 1900 by Hugh McKenzie. (Image: University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections)rt