March 28, 1927: Ground broken for the construction of Duluth’s new City Hall 

On this day in Duluth in 1927, dignitaries broke ground to ceremonially begin the construction of Duluth’s new City Hall, first envisioned by architect Daniel Burnham in 1909. It was a simple affair. City officials broke ground along with Thomas J. Shefchik, the building’s architect, and George Lounsberry, who won the building contract. Lounsberry had come full circle: the contractor was a simple carpenter in 1889 when he helped build Duluth’s first city hall. Shefchik’s design called for a five-story building, including a “ground floor” rather than basement open on the building’s south or First Street side. The third and fourth floors opened to the north to create “light courts,” so the building takes on a U shape above the second floor. Once complete, Duluth’s new city hall would stretch 176.5 feet along First Street and 163 feet along Fourth Avenue East, offering over 2.1 million cubic feet of space. At first it was to be faced in Bedford limestone from Indiana, but that was later changed to granite quarried in Minnesota. The National Register of Historic Places describes the building’s exterior: “The first floor consists of a series of round-arched windows, paired windows above them on the second, then Doric columns elevating four stories to a plain frieze, modest classic cornice, and flat roof, with rusticated stonework the structural norm.” That “plain frieze” was intended by Shefchik to contain an inscribed quotation, just like those on the county courthouse and county jail. For whatever reason, the epitaph was never included. Find out much more about Duluth’s 1928 City Hall, including why it took nearly 20 years to be built, here.

This sketch of the 1928 accompanied a handout published that year, not only touting the new building, but commenting on all the other investments the city had made that year. (Image: Duluth Public Library)