November 27, 1886: Fire Destroys Grain Elevators A & Q

On this day in Duluth in 1886, fire destroyed Duluth’s first  grain elevator, Elevators A, located along the lake at the base of Third Avenue East, and the adjacent Elevator Q. Elevator A was built in 1869 by Jay Cooke’s Union Improvement and Elevator Company with wood purchased from Roger Munger’s sawmill on Lake Avenue. Duluth’s first grain terminal could hold 350,000 bushels of grain and came equipped with a steam-powered conveyance system. Elevator Q (also known locally as the St.P&D Elevator and first named Elevator E) was built between Superior Street and Elevator A in 1884. Grain dust is highly combustible, and wooden grain elevators often went up in flames. When elevators A and Q burned, they took with them about 500,000 bushels of grain and the lives of elevator foreman Edward Lee, fireman Charles Moore, and W. B. Loranger, whose charred body was not discovered until December 17 among the ruins of Elevator Q. The loss was so substantial it actually led to a rise in value of the Chicago grain market. The fire also consumed a saloon, a carriage factory, houses, and warehouses on the 400 block of East Superior Street. The following year wheat from both burned elevators remained on the site, rotting away. It was loaded onto barges and dumped into Lake Superior. In 1892, founders of the Duluth Curling Club used Elevator A’s foundation to build the club’s first rink, which was destroyed in a blizzard in March 1892. Read about Duluth’s historic Grain Trade here.

Duluth’s grain elevator “A.” (Image: Duluth Public Library)