This question comes from the News Tribune newsroom, which recently finished a special section magazine on the Northland’s historic buildings (look for that in your Sunday paper next month): What’s the tallest building in Duluth?
Topping out at 16 stories and 247 feet, the Alworth Building, built in 1910 at 306 W. Superior St., is the tallest building in Duluth. At the time, newspaper advertisements for the building declared “Look Up — You Can’t Miss It.”
Now, if the question was “What’s the tallest structure in Duluth?” then CHS US’s 284-foot-tall cement silo at 1100 Port Terminal Drive and WDIO-TV’s 838-foot-tall radio antenna in Duluth’s antenna farm would easily surpass the Alworth Building.
But by most standards, the Alworth Building has long been considered the tallest building in Duluth.
Commissioned by Marshall H. Alworth — a real estate, mining and logging baron of early Duluth — construction began Sept. 1, 1909 and the building was open May 1, 1910,, according to News Tribune archives.
But when it was built, it was the tallest building in Duluth — and Minnesota.
“DULUTH CARRIES AWAY HONOR OF HAVING TALLEST OFFICE BUILDING IN NORTHWEST,” the News Tribune proclaimed in a June 30, 1910 headline. “A 16-STORY MODERN REINFORCED STEEL STRUCTURE, THAT DWARFS THE TOWER OF BABEL TO A COTTAGE.”
It remained the tallest building in the state until 1915 when Minneapolis’ Soo Line Building, feet, and St. Paul’s Cathedral of St. Paul surpassed it.
Topped with an observation deck, the Alworth Building offered commanding views of the harbor and Lake Superior.
“From the lookout there will also be a fine view over the harbor, up the St. Louis River and over Duluth and Superior,” the News Tribune noted. “The whole lake front may be scanned from the canal piers far beyond Lakewood.”
Occupants of the building used the building's height to their advantage.
M. H. Alworth had an office on the 16th floor and the Provident and Acme Steamship companies had offices on the 15th floor so they “will have use for the observatory in sighting their vessels coming into port,” the News Tribune said.
Although it has remained the tallest building in Duluth for 109 years, it may have some competition from Essentia’s Vision Northland project.
Work is underway on the massive addition to hospital. Once complete it will stretch from Superior Street to Second Street and reach 18-story and 340-foot final height.
Well, if you measure from Superior Street. The project’s tower will only stand between First and Second streets. So it’s 219 feet or 13 stories from Second Street to the helipad on top of the tower.
Measured downhill at First Street? Then it could be close.
So it might depend on how you measure. The Alworth Building, afterall, is 16 stories or 247 feet tall when measured from Michigan Street, which is downhill from the building's Superior Street main entrance.
What do you wonder? Have a quirky question? Get in touch at email@example.com or on Twitter @NorthlandiaDNT.