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Workers restore 1920s-era signage to downtown Duluth building

Pat Bruckelmyer (left) and Kurt Hendrickson of Johnston Masonry move their scaffold on June 25 after removing the last sheets of metal on the building at 9-11 W. Superior St. that had covered its signage for 90 years. (Bob King /

For two months, Johnston Masonry stoneworkers tediously repaired and tuck-pointed the ornate glazed terra-cotta façade of the 1880s building at 9-11 W. Superior St. in downtown Duluth.

“It was deteriorating terribly,” field manager Joel Bruckelmyer said. “The upper parapet was completely falling apart. We tore it down and rebuilt it, using the original pieces.”

In the process, workers uncovered the building’s early signage — Silberstein & Bondy Co. — that had been hidden behind metal sheets since the 1920s.

The three-story building originally housed the Silberstein & Bondy Co., a high-end mercantile business. The engraved building name near the top of the structure probably dates to 1902, when the third floor was added. The signage was covered by sheets of metal in the mid-1920s when the cream terra-cotta façade was applied to the original brick and red sandstone, probably to echo the look of the new Hotel Duluth, known today as Greysolon Plaza.

The hotel’s terra-cotta façade “set a new standard for downtown retailers, trying to keep pace with the new hotel,” said Dennis Lamkin of the Duluth Preservation Alliance. “The Chicago Terra Cotta Tile Company completed both the Hotel Duluth and the Silberstein & Bondy Company store.”

The buildings that now house Zeitgeist Arts and Shel Don Print & Design on East Superior Street downtown were also given similar terra-cotta façades during that period to keep up with the shiny new hotel, he said.

Lamkin, who lives in the former Silberstein family home, long believed the stone marquee was still there — and the workers discovered it when they checked for damage behind the metal sheets while restoring the terra cotta. Last week, the crew wrapped up their restoration work on the building. It now sports a clean, pristine façade topped again by the Silberstein & Bondy Co. name.

Today, the building houses Ragstock and aimClear.