September 17, 1918: Charles De Witt, of DeWitt-Seitz fame, dies in Duluth

On this day in Duluth in 1918, prominent Duluth businessman Charles E. De Witt passed away at his home at 15 North Fifteenth Avenue East. The New York native came to Duluth in 1882 when he was 25 years old to work at the Bell & Eyster Bank. He later worked as secretary and treasurer of the Leithead Drug Company before teaming up with Henry F. Seitz, who had 15 years experience working with Superior’s Webster Chair Factory. In 1905 they formed De Witt-Seitz, which sold furniture and manufactured mattresses, and set up shop on Michigan Street just east of Lake Avenue. In 1909 they built two buildings in what is today known as Canal Park, a warehouse at 394 South Lake Avenue and a mattress factory at 393 St. Croix Avenue (known today as Canal Park Drive). Both were designed by noted Duluth architect John J. Wangenstein and the Lake Avenue building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The Lake Avenue building was converted into a mattress factory at the end of World War II, when it too became a mattress factory. The original factory closed in 1959, and in 1961 Sam Atkins purchased the business and the Lake Avenue building and changed the company’s name to Happy Sleeper after his son, who was nicknamed “Happy.” The company moved to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in 1983, and in 1987 the Lake Avenue building became the Dewitt-Seitz Marketplace. The other building was converted into a seafood restaurant and later became Little Angie’s Cantina. And Happy Sleeper is still making mattresses.

A sketch of the De Witt-Sietz Building made at the time of its construction in 1909. (Image: Duluth Public Library)