Discover Duluth: First Street, Vol. I-IIIIn addition to great places to grab a bite to eat, the downtown stretch of First Street includes some of Duluth’s best architecture, like the Board of Trade building, the AT&T tower and the buildings that make up the Civic Center.
By: Matthew R. Perrine, Budgeteer News
Oh, the sights you’ll see on First Street.
No matter where you begin your adventure, you’re in for an eclectic time. Just for kicks, though, let’s use the downtown stretch’s western tip near the Gerald W. Heaney Federal Building, U.S. Courthouse and Custom House as today’s starting point. (We’ll have to save the non-downtown portions of First Street for future installments of “Discover Duluth.”)
The Federal Building is part of the city’s Civic Center, which also includes City Hall, one of three county courthouses and, up on Second Street, the since-replaced county jail. The campus was designed by Daniel H. Burnham, who utilized elements of the City Beautiful movement to woo city commissioners. According to a history of the Federal Building by the U.S. General Services Administration (see below), they unanimously endorsed Burnham’s vision in 1908 — though the Federal Building, constructed after City Hall and the county courthouse, didn’t open to the public until 1930.
Continuing the architectural aspect of your First Street walkabout, a block east of the Civic Center sits the ominous AT&T tower. And, across the street from that is a structure you’ll actually want to go in and visit: the Board of Trade building.
What makes this building so special is that one of its tenants, Minnesota Ballet, occupies a space formerly used for Duluth’s Grain Exchange. Not only that, but the organization remodeled the historic site a decade ago. Now it looks immaculate — well worth a trip up to the eighth floor to see if anyone is available to give you a tour.
All that walking getting you hungry? No worries: First Street has some great dining options. Kitty-corner to the Board of Trade building is Erbert & Gerbert’s, a sub shop that originates in Eau Claire, Wis.; other stops along this stretch include Sammy’s Pizza, Coney Island Deluxe and Cantonese House.
After you find a place to fill your belly, make sure to stop by the powerful Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, located near Second Avenue East. Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie were three black circus workers in 1920 wrongly accused of raping a white woman. They were abducted from their Duluth jail cells by a lynch mob and hung from lampposts.
While the memorial is a grim reminder of one of the city’s darkest hours, Duluth artist Carla Stetson designed what is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful pieces of public art ever constructed.
Other First Street points of interest include The Encounter (a Christian youth center and indoor skate park), a good chunk of the city’s medical district, the paradise for retro video game collectors that is All Game and the always-in-the-news Kozy Bar & Apartments.
“Discover Duluth” is an ongoing photo essay series by Matthew R. Perrine that highlights points of interest in and around the region. For more photos from this set, click on the accompanying photo galleries.
Some great resources I found online to help you make the most of your First Street adventure:
Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial: www.claytonjacksonmcghie.org
Federal Building: www.gsa.gov/Portal/gsa/ep/contentView.do?contentType=GSA_BASIC&contentId=21006