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Duluth 'floating' house is yours for $750,000

Congdon Park neighborhood home will be featured on a historic properties tour Sunday.

Man outside a house.
Owner Peter Gesell talks about the 63-year-old Erickson House on Tuesday. The 2,452-square-foot structure, suspended over a creek in Duluth’s Congdon neighborhood, is for sale.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — From the street, Peter Gesell's house looks like any other, but nearing the door is another story. The concrete driveway extends to a walkway suspended in air.

Gesell's “floating” home and its steel scaffolding supports are firmly planted in Duluth's Congdon Park neighborhood.

Man standing inside house.
Owner Peter Gesell stands near the Erickson House’s kitchen Tuesday.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

The balcony juts out into the treetops, and the backyard is made up of a rocky trench along the creek.

“The only lawn is the boulevard, and as you can see I don’t mow that ever,” Gesell said.

Gesell's home, listed for sale at $750,000, will be featured in the Duluth Preservation Alliance’s historic properties tour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

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Deck on the backside of a house.
Mountain ash trees grow near the deck on the Erickson House, suspended 25 feet above the creek bed.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

The self-guided tour features six properties, five of which are midcentury modern, like Gesell's. This year’s locations:

  • 1545 Skyline Parkway
  • 219 S. 26th Ave. E.
  • 1955 Hartley Road
  • 2700 Minnesota Ave.
  • 3328 E. Superior St.
  • 2131 E. Second St.

The Duluth Preservation Alliance aims to maintain and enhance Duluth architectural heritage. Along with tours, the organization recognizes preservation efforts and hosts educational presentations.
After years of virtual events, this is DPA’s first live tour since 2018. Expect homes built in 1940 and 1950s and a variety of midcentury styles.

House built over a creek.
A section of the Erickson House is built directly over a creek.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Post-WWII America saw a lot of change, which was mirrored in its domestic architecture, said Blake Romenesko, Duluth Preservation Alliance president.

Blake Romenesko.jpg

For Gesell, it is a reminder of the home he grew up in. “I see myself more as a caretaker, less as an owner,” he said.

Gesell bought the house at 3328 E. Superior St. in 2005.

The three-bedroom, three-bathroom features vaulted ceilings, an indoor pool, natural woodwork, a fireplace and oodles of built-ins, shag carpeting with carpets and vanities to match. The foyer’s vertical brick extends out to the exterior wall.

Two-sided fireplace.
A two-sided fireplace in the Erickson House.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

There’s an entertaining kitchen on the main floor with a sink, stove and mini-fridge. The larger kitchen is in a side room with a full-size refrigerator.

The only set of stairs in the one-level home leads to the pool surrounded by green carpeting. Gesell said it hasn’t been filled since he bought it.

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Indoor pool.
The Erickson House includes a pool below the garage.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Asked about any quirks residing above a creek, Gesell recalled the 2012 flood.

A metal light fixture
The light in the Erickson House’s entryway is contained in a metal orb.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

“It came down Superior Street, came up on the driveway and both sides of the house,” he said. While the water didn’t infiltrate the home or garage, Gesell said, “If you had fallen into the creek, you would’ve been washed into Lake Superior.”

Lewis Erickson designed and built the house on “stilts” for his wife, Gwendolyn, whose early polio diagnosis affected her legs.

With this in mind, Erickson, a professional engineer, equipped their home with a one-level, open floor plan.

At the time of its completion, the estimated value of the building was $45,000, according to the Duluth Preservation Alliance.

The house was sold by the time Lewis’ grandson, Brad, was born, but it’s still highly regarded in the family. “It’s pretty amazing it withstood all these years,” he said. “Driving by on Superior Street, you’d never know it’s on stilts.”

The story was updated at 10:39 p.m. Sept. 16 to correct the spelling of Peter Gesell's name. Also the Duluth Preservation Alliance’s last in-person tour was 2018.

Man in a belt massager.
Peter Gesell demonstrates that a vintage vibrating belt massager in the house’s pool room works Tuesday.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
Grand piano.
A grand piano stands in a corner of the Erickson House’s living room.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

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Jessica Buelow and Karen Rue from the Gulliford & Rue Realty Team at Edina Realty are handling this listing.

Melinda Lavine is an award-winning, multidisciplinary journalist with 16 years professional experience. She joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2014, and today, she writes about the heartbeat of our community: the people.

Melinda grew up in central North Dakota, a first-generation American and the daughter of a military dad.

She earned bachelors degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota in 2006, and started her career at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald that summer. She helped launch the Herald's features section, as the editor, before moving north to do the same at the DNT.

Contact her: 218-723-5346, mlavine@duluthnews.com.
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