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Duluth Depot kicks off 130th birthday

Opened in 1892, the Depot hosts of series of celebratory events starting with Sunday's first of three building tours in March.

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The Depot in downtown Duluth, owned by the county and home to the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center.
2021 file / Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — The Depot celebrates its 130th birthday this month.

It’s believed the first train left the Depot in March 1892, shortly after it was finished being built the same year, according to Zenith City Press.

To celebrate the milestone, the Depot is offering a series of events beginning Sunday and extending throughout the month, even into the year.

“We are offering specialty tours of the building with Hailey Eidenschink, our incredible cultural coordinator,” said Mary Tennis, director of the Depot and St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center.

Tennis referenced a series of tours beginning with an Untold Depot Stories Tour from 11 a.m. to noon Sunday. Following tours include:

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  • A Depot Flashlight Tour from 6-7 p.m. March 18.  
  • “Depot through the Ages,” a reflection on building uses and changes, from 10:30-11:30 a.m. March 26.

“It’s been unbelievable with the limited amount of time we’ve had, how much public support we’ve received for these brand-new adventures,” Tennis told the News Tribune in an email.

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Mary Tennis
File / Duluth News Tribune

Tickets are $15 each for tours in March, and can be purchased at experiencethedepot.org.

Since becoming the county’s first Depot director in 2019, Tennis has set about remaking the Depot into a more engaging place for the community at large.

As St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center, it's home to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, St. Louis County Historical Society, St. Louis County Extension, Duluth Art Institute, North Shore Scenic Railroad, The Duluth Playhouse, Minnesota Ballet and Arrowhead Chorale.

“Our vision for the building is to provide welcoming space and foster connections for distinctive educational and cultural activity,” Tennis said. “It really has informed all the events and programs we have planned.”

Even hampered by the pandemic, the Depot hosted its first Bienvenue CoffeeFest last summer.

Tennis outlined more events to come during the Depot’s anniversary campaign, including a birthday balloon sculpture to be installed next week and revealed March 12.

“Folks can stop by the Great Hall and interact with the sculpture — a model of the building rendered in latex by local balloon artist Laurel Schultze,” Tennis said.

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The Depot currently features a traveling hockey exhibit in the Small Fesler Gallery honoring St. Louis County hockey history.

Also, the Depot is delivering birthday cakes to some of its closest community partners. So far, the Great Lakes Aquarium, Duluth Entertainment Convention Center and Duluth Public Library have been Depot birthday cake recipients. The Minnesota Discovery Center, in Chisholm, and Camp Esquagama, in Gilbert, are next on the list.

“We really wanted to throw a big food and beverage-laden bash, but didn’t feel comfortable with pandemic numbers, so we decided to bring the party to folks,” Tennis said.

In the year ahead, the Depot will house a Master Gardener program; regular 4-H programming; vendor pop-ups; the return of Bienvenue CoffeeFest; St. Louis County Ted Talks (or similar); a Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra concert series in July; farmers markets in the fall; and a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Mathematics Festival, a free family event in May.

This story originally contained an inaccuracy in the list of future events. It was updated at 9:45 a.m. March 8 with the proper inclusion of the STEAM event. The story was originally posted at 9:33 a.m. March 5. The News Tribune regrets the error.

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