Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Old Postcard Wednesday—St. Louis Hotel and Torrey Building, Duluth, Minn.

Torrey Building
314 West Superior Street
Duluth MN United States

Status:    built
Construction Dates
  Finished    1892
Floor Count    10
Basement Floors    2
Elevator Count    3
Building Uses
 - office
Structural Types
 - highrise
Architectural Style                                                        Description
 - chicago school                                                        - Architect: Traphagen & Fitzpatrick
 - brick
                                                        - The building's frontage on Superior Street is 10 floors in height, and is                                                           12 floors from the back along Michigan Avenue.

In searching for information about the two buildings featured on this old postcard I came upon what I think is a fascinating resource, the source cited after the stats above. To see how cool this gets just click HERE to view a diagram of Duluth "skyscrapers" in a side-by-side line of comparison. (And that's just gets even better when you click around to view buildings in cities across the planet; check out this page with a United States Skyscraper Diagram, side-by-side comparison.)

You will notice in the above-mentioned diagram that the St. Louis Hotel is not drawn or mentioned. I was not having luck finding information about the old building until I came upon Zenith City Online - Celebrating Historic Duluth, Western Lake Superior, & Minnesota's Arrowhead - where, in Volume 1, Issue 2, the June 2012 edition, there is a piece about the St. Louis Hotel. As luck would have it, a book (highly praised) was written in 2011 titled Lost Duluth, and from that book I am posting (below) a portion of what Zenith City Online has posted. To continue reading, please click on the link to the June 2012 edition and from there you will find links taking you to a pdf copy of the material. Note that there were two St. Louis Hotel(s), the second one described below as the six-story building pictured in the old postcard:

St. Louis Hotel(s)
Architect: George Wirth, Oliver Traphagen
Built: 1882, 1888 | Lost: 1893

Architect: Traphagen & Fitzpatrick
Built: 1894 | Lost: 1932

. . .Thomas Cullyford hired St. Paul’s George Wirth to design the St. Louis Hotel on the southeast corner of Fourth Avenue West and Superior Street. A typical Victorian design of four stories with red and white brick, the St. Louis—named for the river that creates the Duluth-Superior harbor—featured two square roof towers, columns, balconies, and decorative window hoods all capped with an elaborate cornice. The hotel (pictured at website and in book) resembled the Metropolitan block, another Wirth creation. . .

In 1888—as the grand Spalding Hotel was being built one block west—Cullyford hired Wirth’s former protégé, Oliver Traphagen, to design an eastern wing for the building that would nearly double the hotel’s size. The new wing, called the Brighton Hotel, repeated the architectural features of the original. . .

Tragedy struck the St. Louis on January 13, 1893, when two people perished in a fire that ultimately destroyed the original hotel building. Smoke and water damaged the Brighton, but not enough to keep it from reopening that March.

The following year Traphagen and his partner Francis Fitzpatrick designed a new St Louis Hotel, which was located east of and atop the Brighton lot. The new St. Louis stood six stories tall with a patterned brick cornice and carved stone ornamentation. Under the direction of Butchart and Michaud and their partner Louis Rouchleau, the new St. Louis regained its previous popularity with visitors. But by the late 1920s it was in decline, described in a 1948 WEBC radio program as “a rat’s nest and fire trap” at the end of its life. It was razed in 1932 to make room for the Medical Arts Building, an Art Deco masterpiece which still stands today. 
{Note: Talk about coming full circle.....the Medical Arts Building is in that 
Duluth Skyscrapers Diagram link at the beginning of this post!}

It's depressing to think about the history we have lost here in the U.S. Personally, I think Americans do a really poor job of preserving their past. At least Duluth replaced the old hotel with an Art Deco masterpiece and not a hideous big box building. I appreciated a website that quietly celebrates the Torrey Building, which still stands. Click here to view thumbnail images (that expand) of numerous examples of available offices, the front of the building, the skywalk, cafe, and more.  It's a sweet presentation, I thought.

I began this post with stats about the Torrey Building that mentioned the building has three elevators. Therefore, it is only fitting that I end it with a ride in two of them (the ending of the video shows why we can only ride in two). Hoping it gives you a "lift," I wish you a good Wednesday.

Explanation at youtube: These are the Lagerquist (maintained by ThyssenKrupp) traction elevators at the Torrey building in Duluth, Minnesota. They are borderline death trap elevators that make a lot of noise going up and down. The outer door frames on the bottom floor are about 6 inches shorter than the cab door frames, so you see part of the mechanics of the outer doors, which is rather unique. Overall, even though these are a little rickety, these are pretty nice elevators.

Lost Duluth can be purchased here. I will be buying a copy, as it is the city where my Finnish grandparents settled after immigrating to the United States, and where they raised a daughter and a son, my father. They are all buried in Duluth.



Gina Gao said...

I agree with your statement that the US do not do a good job with preserving our past.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Herself doesn't like lifts, and i can't say i really blame her.

The best lifts were the magic ones at BBC Pebble Mill studios, which seemed to know when you were about to press the button and light up on their own.

The worst were the ones at my old office building where you were never 100% sure if the doors would open again - ever

Personally i'm rather sad when i see old dilapidated buildings. We have protected grades for buildings here - grade 1, 2 etc which limit what you can do to them, but there are still ways around it.

Like there are some old millers houses about 2 miles from where i live that are burned out and surrounded by fences - technically they are protected historical buildings so the owner cannot knock them down to re-develop - but equally there is nothing that can be done to force him to renovate, so he just sits and waits for the day they fall down

susan said...

An interesting fact about older buildings (those constructed prior to the glass curtain wall style) was that many of them were shaped in such a way that no single wing was more than 30-40 feet wide. That meant that there was always natural light and transoms over doors made for easy cross ventilation.

It's a shame that so many were destroyed in the name of progress when that particular kind of efficiency is entirely dependent on always having an abundant supply of cheap fossil fuel for heating and cooling.

Nice post, Lydia.

Lydia said...

Gina~ Thank you for your visit and comment.

Pixies~ I worked in one building with terrifying elevators, but there were bats in the stairwell so I usually took the elevator.
Interesting that old buildings are graded like that. There is no real point in requiring a building to remain until it collapses. If they aren't salvageable I think they become dangerous, and definitely eyesores. On the other hand, tearing down perfectly wonderful old structures just because they are not modern infuriates me. The Mapes Hotel in Reno was one example...what a lovely structure and no one to love or stand up for its survival.

Susan~ I absolutely did not know that and think it is remarkable. Your argument in defense of that kind of design makes perfect sense. Which is why they aren't building them that way anymore, I guess!

hedgewitch said...

You make something I'm extremely blase about(skyscrapers) fascinating by turning them into bits of living(or not) history. My first look at the postcard reminded me strongly of Chicago--millions of buildings there like that when I was growing up--many I'm sure gone now. Thanks for taking the time to dig up all this information and present it so interestingly. It's also interesting what Susan points out--modern glass and steel buildings have to be huge energy wasters compared to those old brick buildings, I'm sure.

Lydia said...

hedgewitch~ Thank you for your kind comments on this one. So you are a Chicago girl...sounds like you left awhile ago. On my list of cities to see. Susan's comment was indeed an interesting insight. Hope you are having a good weekend, hedge.



Related Posts with Thumbnails