November 12, 1928: Dedication of Duluth City Hall

On this Day in Duluth in 1928, thousands gathered to dedicate the city’s brand new city Hall. City Hall’s dedication was held in conjunction with Armistice Day observations, so the ceremony began with a parade, led by the Naval Reserve Band, that began at Third Avenue East and Superior Street and led to the new city hall. Edward Silberstein presided, Bishop Thomas Welch of the Duluth Catholic Diocese made a statement, and every member of the city council, building committee, the architect, and the contractor, were all introduced and recognized. The chairman of the building committee formally presented the building to the city, and Mayor Snively accepted on the city’s behalf. Judge Bert Fesler delivered the dedication address. And then came the event’s oddest spectacle, a tribute to Duluth’s pioneers. Bernice Brown, “well-known author and poet of this city,” wrote a “Story of Duluth,” which was read by Reverend William J. Barr of the Central Avenue Methodist Church. As Barr read Brown’s story, he was joined on stage by 11 Duluthians dressed as specific Duluth pioneers, such as Duluth’s first mayor, J. B. Culver. Whoever researched Brown’s tale could have used a refresher course. The story claimed that Duluth’s first city hall in 1871 was a small building “made of boxes and logs” with one window—but Duluth had no city hall until 1889. One of the reinactors portrayed Julia A. Wheeler, “Duluth’s first white child.” Miss Wheeler was born in Oneota in 1856, and she was indeed the first child born there. But the distinction of first child of European descent to be born in what is now Duluth belongs to Mary Wright Ely, born at Fond du Lac in 1836. Another actor represented Duluth’s namesake, “Capt. Greysolon Jean du Luht.” That honor, of course, should have gone to Daniel Greysolon Sieur du Lhut—there never was a “Jean Duluth.” Read more about Duluth’s 1928 City Hall here and its 1889 City Hall here.

Detail of a photograph of the 1928 Duluth City Hall made by Hugh McKenzie in 1929. (Image: University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections)