On this day in Duluth in 1920, the first Bethany Children’s home at 4000 West Ninth Street was completely destroyed by fire. The structure was originally built as the home of Alfred Merritt and his wife Jane. Alfred Merritt was a member of the Merritt family who settled the town of Oneota, now part of West Duluth, in the 1850s and later helped develop the Mesabi Iron Range. In 1916 the Merritts sold their home to the Swedish Lutheran Church of West Duluth, who adapted it for an orphanage. Four hose companies from the Duluth Fire Department responded to the blaze, which started beneath one of the building’s porches at about noon that Sunday. Despite their efforts, strong winds hampered their effort, and the building was a total loss. The matron, Mrs. Ella Anderson, her seven assistants, and the 53 children who lost their home found temporary lodging in the houses of West End and West Duluth members of the Swedish Lutheran churches until a new facility on the same site opened in 1923. You’ll find more about Bethany Children’s Home here and here.
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