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Historic pavilion in Duluth's Lincoln Park damaged by arson

A fire in a portable toilet in Duluth’s Lincoln Park early Saturday spread to the roof of the adjacent stone pavilion, causing an estimated $75,000 in damage. Officials are treating it as a case of arson. (Steve Kuchera / / 2
Firefighters battle an arson fire at the stone pavilion in Duluth's Lincoln Park early Saturday morning. (LaReesa Sandretsky / / 2

The historic 1930s-era stone pavilion in Duluth’s Lincoln Park was damaged by a fire early Saturday morning, and officials say it’s a case of arson.

The Duluth Fire Department reported that crews were called to the park just after midnight on a report of a portable toilet on fire. Soon after, the call was upgraded on reports that the fire was spreading to the roof of the adjacent stone pavilion.

Crews extinguished the fire, and most of the damage — estimated at $75,000 by fire officials — was on the east end of the structure. No injuries were reported.

After investigation by the Duluth Fire Marshal’s Office, officials are treating the fire as a case of arson. Anyone with information about the incident should contact Duluth police or the Duluth Fire Marshal’s Office.

On Saturday afternoon, arson signs were posted at the scene, offering a reward for tips on who started the fire. Parts of the roof, soffit and fascia at the rear of the pavilion facing Miller Creek were charred, and a door also was damaged. Most of the structure remained intact, however; from the front, facing the pavilion’s “stage,” there was little evidence of the previous night’s fire.

The pavilion, also sometimes referred to as a bandstand, was built by federal Works Progress Administration crews in the 1930s. It replaced a wooden structure that had burned down. The pavilion was used for concerts, plays and political campaign speeches, and for many years hosted a popular midsummer Scandinavian festival.

After years of deterioration of the pavilion and other parts of Lincoln Park, a neighborhood group initiated repair and restoration work in the park in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The pavilion underwent a $130,000 restoration in 2002, including tuck-pointing, a new roof, new doors and new windows. Crews also cleaned the stonework. The project received a Duluth Preservation Alliance award in 2003.

In recent years the pavilion has been available for rent for weddings, picnics and other events. There was no immediate word Saturday on whether the fire damage would affect the building’s availability to host events.