November 15, 1855: Birth of Francis E. House

On this day in 1855, future Duluthian Francis E. House was born in upstate New York in Houseville—a town named for his family. His father, Henry, became wealthy working in the insurance and banking industries, giving Francis—the oldest of four boys—a financial and educational head start. Francis would eventually study engineering and chemistry at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Troy, New York. He  left college without graduating to take an engineering job at a Nevada mine at the age of twenty-two. In 1880 he hired on with a surveying party for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, and did engineering work for other lines of railroads. By 1890 he was train master of the railroad’s Kansas City Division. House kept moving through jobs and up the ladder until in 1901 he found himself in charge of the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad. That same year he was lured to the Zenith City to be the president of the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad. In Duluth he was active with the Y.M.C.A., an elder of the First Presbyterian Church, and a member of the Kitchi Gammi Club, Commercial Club, and Northland Country Club. In 1904 he and his wife Minnie built a grand home at 2210 East Superior Street designed by William Bray (which is including in the Duluth preservation Alliance’s East End Historic Homes Walking Tour). In 1920, the House’s daughter Dorothy married Edward Congdon in a ceremony at Glensheen, the Congdon family estate. Francis House died April 4, 1926 in Janesville, Wisconsin, after being taken ill while en route to Duluth aboard his private train car, Minnesota. Minnie had passed a year earlier.

Francis E. House. (Image: Duluth Public Library)