October 15, 1892: Officials move into Duluth’s new Union Depot

On this day in Duluth in 1892, railroad officials moved into their new offices within the brand new Duluth Union Depot. But first they had to move out of the Zenith City’s original Depot, which at the time was actually inside the new Depot’s train shed. Allow us to explain: The first Union Depot, a passenger station serving Lake Superior & Mississippi and Northern Pacific Railroads (hence “union”), was built west of Fifth Avenue West behind Michigan Street in 1870. The two-story building was a simple affair, with just two rooms on the main floor and was likely built in 1870. In 1892 a second and much larger Union Depot was built at Fifth Avenue West and Michigan Street to serve six railroads: St. Paul & Duluth, Northern Pacific, the Duluth South Shore & Atlantic, the Duluth & Iron Range, Wisconsin Central, and Duluth & Winnipeg. While it was under construction, the Duluth News Tribune lambasted the 1870 Depot, calling it “unbearable and disgraceful” and stated that “the average Duluthian would prefer to receive twenty thousand visitors a few months hence in a circus tent rather than the ridiculous tumble-down shanty that at present serves as a very worrisome policy for a union depot.” After the depot officials moved their offices into the new building, the 1870 depot was dismantled and carried away. The same newspaper that called the old depot “disgraceful” wrote that the old depot “gave more joy to the then residents [of Duluth] then does perhaps the magnificent new union depot that is to supersede it,” and noted that “the life of the old house measures the life of Duluth.” Read more about the 1892 Duluth Union Depot—which stands today as the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center, here.

The original Duluth Union Depot with a 4-car Duluth South Shore & Atlantic flour train parked out front preparing to leave Duluth. The first and fourth cars carry the railroad name as their slogan. The second says, “THIS TRAIN LOADED WITH FLOUR MANUFACTURED AT IMPERIAL MILLS DULUTH.” The third car says, “BEST WHEAT, BEST MILLS, BEST FLOUR.” (Image: Twin Ports Rail History)