Sheldon Aubut's Duluth History

Pastoret - Stenson Block

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About 1895




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29-33 E. Superior Street Domains $7.49 - Why Pay More?
Presently: Unoccupied, owned by Duluth Economic Development Authority
Previously: Pastoret-Stenson Block (also called the Lowell Block)
Built: 1888
Architect: Oliver Traphagen - Duluth
Style: Richardsonian Romanesque

ps1a.jpg (10269 bytes)The Pastoret-Stenson Block originally had six stories with arched windows on the top floor but the top three floors were removed about 1930 after a fire destroyed those floors. At that time it was called the Lowell Block. The fire began in the second story B and Y Cap Company factory on March 7th. The third through sixth floors had many small apartments, and four people were trapped and died in the fire. Victims were five year old Ann Todd, her sister, Helen, seven years old, Mrs. Jane Thomas, 77, who was babysitting the young girls,  and Mrs. Angie Whittaker, aged 78.  At that time this was the worst fire in Duluth history.  Later, rumors circulated that an explosion of a still in the cap factory (this was during Prohibition) had caused the fire.   Duluth, during prohibition, was a wide open town with many "buffets" (speakeasys) and as many as 100 liquor violation arrests a week.  Imagine 100 drug arrests a week today, and you begin to get a picture of the magnitude of prohibitions effect on Duluth.

All official records seem to indicate that there was no known cause of the fire, but people who worked or lived in the building have always stated openly that the still explosion was the cause.

In June of 1930 the top three, heavily damaged floors were removed, a new roof was installed and the present, plain brick cornice was built.

ps2a.jpg (15469 bytes)Early occupants of the building included Singer Sewing Machine. During the 1940’s and 1950’s, the street level was home to Gotkins Greater Markets. During the 1960’s, King Korn Stamps and Duluth Sewing Center were on the street level, and in the 1970’s Radio Shack replaced the stamp store. By 1988 the present occupants, John’s Used Furniture and Last Place on Earth were on the street level. Since the 1960’s the upper floors have been vacant or used for storage.

The original cornice was decorated with three rows of patterned brick and seven squat towers. Heavily carved bands of scrolls and leaves stretched over the third, fourth and fifth floors. A plain brick cornice was added to the remaining structure after the fire. You can still see the band of scrolls and leaves above the third floor. You can also see "O. Stenson" just to the west of the corner entrance and "M. Pastoret" on the southwest corner of the building. The date 1888 is carved over the third floor above the corner entrance. The brownstone used in this structure came from Mr. Ingall’s quarry at Fon du Lac.

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Last modified: January 15, 2011
copyright 1986-2013 , Sheldon T. Aubut, all rights reserved

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