November 29, 1965: Duluth Fire Department moves into its new headquarters

On this day in Duluth in 1965, the Duluth Fire Department moved into its new headquarters at 602 West First Street. The new facility was financed with a $600,000 bond, but cost savings measure brought the project in under budget at just under $400,000. Costs were cut by eliminating some extra equipment and incorporating a six-year-old two-story apartment building that already stood on the lot. Because of its placement on the hillside, firefighting vehicles could exit the facility on First Street or Second Street. The city almost didn’t accept the new facility, as Fire Chief Del E. Leonard was concerned about cracks and low spots in the new concrete floor; the contractor promised to make repairs. The new facility replaced Duluth’s 1894 Central Fire Hall (pictured below), which stood across the street. The old facility was a three-story brick-and-sandstone structure with three sets of double-doors wide enough for horse-drawn firefighting equipment—it was not built to handle modern fire trucks. The 1894 facility was sold to the Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Authority for $73,000 and was demolished as part of Duluth’s Gateway Renewal Program, designed to eliminate the city’s Bowery, just days after the new fire hall open. The site of the old fire hall was supposed to become home to a new $3 million post office, but the project did not materialize. Instead, a parking lot was built on the site. Learn more about Duluth’s old fire halls in our Lost Duluth Architecture archive or our Historic Duluth Architecture archive.

The 1894 Duluth Fire Department Headquarters, which was demolished and replaced in 1965. (Image: Duluth Public Library)