Depot Square

Duluth was a thriving community during the 1910 era, with a population of more than 78,000 (today it is about 82,500) and was part of an economic boom that involved mining, lumbering, manufacturing, distribution, and transportation.
The Depot Square exhibit recreates that era along two streets, Union Street and Railroad Street, and invites visitors to participate in and explore one of Duluth’s more historically important periods.
Depot Square was built as a combined effort by the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, Duluth Children's Museum, and St. Louis County Historical Society.

D.F.D. No. 1

The City of Duluth has always pointed with great pride to their Fire Department, with its headquarters located at 608 West First Street in 1910. At the turn of the century, it was considered one of the finest, with several horse drawn rigs, steam engines, and a force of over 100 men, two fire boats, and a fire trolley to cover Park Point below the Aerial Bridge.  The hose cart and hand-operated water pump are from Firehall No. 1 and date from 1870, when the Fire Department was officially organized.


Gust Gagner Barber Shop

Working long hours every day of the week, including Sunday for those who needed a shave before church services, the barber’s trade included the first haircut for many children, a little dentistry for an ailing tooth, the regulars for a shave and a haircut and the ‘jacks who came in for their "seasonal shearing."


J.L. Tronsdal Meat and Fish

A meat and fish market man, J.L. Tronsdal, at one time or another, was involved in all facets of the business, from butchering, drawing, skinning, dressing and cutting to the sausage making and smokehouse curing of certain meats. In dealing with such a highly perishable commodity, Tronsdal took daily deliveries of fish from the Lake Superior fisherman and he depended on his refrigeration methods to keep the meat fresh.


Madame Warde Seamstress and Milliner

Madame Elizabeth Warde operated a seamstress shop in Duluth at 5 West Superior Street in 1910. This structure on Depot Square is typical of the small family owned businesses of the era, with the owner’s residence on the second floor, above the shop.



First National Bank

The First National Bank, which was located at 3rd Avenue West and Superior Street in 1910, was formed by the consolidation of three national banks: the Union National Bank, the Duluth National Bank and the Merchants’ National Bank.

It was incorporated in 1889 with a capital of $1,000,000 and was reputed to have the largest capital, the largest sum of deposits, the largest sum of loans and discounts and the largest reserve among the banks of Duluth at the time.


Keystone Loan and Mercantile Company

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This was the place to come to buy, sell or trade an item when times became difficult. Watches, lumberjack tools, musical instruments and many personal possessions, large and small, were brought in for later retrieval, hopefully, to ease a man and his family through rough times before work was secured in the lumber camp or mines.


Duluth Edison Electric Company

The Duluth Edison Electric Company was incorporated in 1906, and in 1923 the name was changed to Minnesota Power and Light. It was a salesroom where every manner of electrical appliance was demonstrated and sold, such as stoves, radiators, toasters, broilers, ovens, heating pads, shaving cups, cigar lighters, chafing dishes, percolators, tea kettles and flat irons. “They heat or cook the instant the current is turned on.”

The Zenith Tobacco Company

Originally known as the Zenith Cigar Company, this Duluth business was located at 24 East First Street. They made their own cigars on the premises, similar to the “Zenith Cigar” seen in the window.  The Zenith Cigar Company sold a variety of imported and domestic cigars ranging in price from 4 ½ cents to 10 cents.


Duluth & Iron Range Railroad Company

Located at the corner of Lake Avenue and Superior Street, the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad building housed the railroad company offices. Its façade now houses the Depot Gift Shop.

In 1910, the D&IR Railroad operated two first class trains daily (except Sunday) between Duluth and all points on the Vermillion and Mesaba Iron Ranges “through a country unrivaled in its possibilities for the investor, the sportsman, the camper and the tourist.” The railroad’s Café-Observation Car between Duluth and Ely served meals en route.


Grambsch Candy Kitchen

In the early 1900s, Benjamin Grambsch made his candy in 9-cup batches, meaning he added 9 cups of syrup or sugar to other special ingredients. It took half an hour and the help of four people for each batch: one to cook, two to roll and shape the candy and one to cut it. Marble top counters were used to cool the candy mixture evenly, and a batch heater was then used to keep the candy pliable, whether it was to be crimped, cut into pieces or rolled into canes.

From time to time, Ben Grambsch’s son Clyde, who learned candy making as a youngster, comes to Duluth with his family to demonstrate candy making, using this original equipment from the Grambsch Candy Kitchen. The storefront which houses the Grambsch Candy Kitchen at Depot Square is a replica of an 1886 building still standing on Superior Street west of Lake Avenue.


Duluth Board of Trade

Ever-increasing grain crops poured into Duluth, creating such phenomenal grain trade business that Duluth was accepted as the greatest wheat market in the world in the late 1800s.

This façade is patterned after the original Board of Trade Building, built in 1885 on the corner of Third Avenue West and Superior Street. Fire destroyed it in 1894 and the current Board of Trade Building was erected in 1895 at Third Avenue and First Street.

Duluth Tent and Awning Co.

The Duluth Tent and Awning Company, famous for its Duluth Pack, was one of seven firms making awnings in Duluth in the early 1900s. Founded by the five Alveson brothers, it managed to survive the demise of the familiar storefront awning business by diversifying to produce canvas sport equipment. This unique firm is still operating at its original site at 1610 West Superior Street.


Marshall-Wells Hardware Company

The Marshall-Wells Hardware Company, located at 251-319 Lake Avenue South, was founded in Duluth in 1893 by A.M. Marshall. It grew to become the largest wholesale hardware dealer in North America, and operated more than 1,000 retail stores throughout the United States and Canada. As exporters, they also sold merchandise through representatives in the Hawaiian Islands, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippine Islands, and China. They were manufacturers as well as distributors, and their “Zenith Brand” goods listed in their 3,880-page catalogue carried the Duluth name around the world.


Incline Bar

Named after the famous Seventh Avenue West Incline Railway, which connected the Superior Street trolley lines to the hilltop and the Duluth Heights trolley lines, the Incline Bar represents many such establishments of the early 1900s. Located in the Bowery District along with several small theaters, it offered a gathering spot for the workmen of the shipyards and the lumber camps.



William Bagley & Sam Boyer, M.D.

Bagley and Boyer were two early Duluth doctors who shared an office in the Lyceum Theater Building on Superior Street. For a fee of $2.00 for an adult and $1.00 for a child, these doctors cared for Duluthians suffering from the simplest ailment to those needing surgery.  At first, the doctors made their house calls in a horse-drawn buggy, but before long, Dr. Bagley was seen on his way to St. Luke’s Hospital in his Mitchell automobile.



White Swan Drug Store

Originally located on Superior Street near Lake Avenue, the White Swan Drug Store was operated by Alfred E. Swedberg, who was a member of Minnesota’s first class of registered pharmacists in 1901.


S. Morterud’s Clothing

Established in 1888 and located in the West End lumber district, S. Morterud’s was an outfitter for the workingman. Duluth had many such stores at the turn of the century to provide the newly arrived laborers with work clothes or a suit for special occasions.


Edward M. Stone Booksellers and Stationers

According to the 1910 City Directory, Mr. Stone was the proprietor of two family owned stores. Their specialties were books, stationery, news and magazines, but they also sold office equipment, ledger books and a variety of writing-related items.



Branch’s Hall

Branch’s Hall, which was located at 416 East Superior Street, was the first brick business structure in Duluth, built around 1872. In addition to housing businesses, it also housed an auditorium or town meeting hall, an early school and served as the Duluth headquarters for the Grand Army of the Republic.


Bridgeman’s Ice Cream

In 1883, Henry Bridgeman started peddling milk from house to house in Duluth, using a goat cart for transportation. Soon his small dairy enterprise grew to become a confectionery store, run by both Henry and his brother Frank, and eventually expanded to include a great variety of dairy products, eggs, butter, cheese and the Velvet brand of ice cream. The furnishings are handmade recreations and the tin ceilings in this store and other Depot Square businesses were purchased from a New York firm that still uses the original presses.


Zelda Theater

The Zelda Theater is fashioned after one of Duluth’s early movie theaters from the era of silent films. The original Zelda Theater building, now greatly remodeled, can still be seen at 309 West Superior Street.

From the very beginning, Duluthians enjoyed and fostered the performing arts, and many theaters were filled with live entertainment in the form of touring plays, vaudeville and opera singers, dancers and musicians, and a great many famous entertainers played to packed houses of admirers.


Depot Square Station

At the corner of Depot Square’s Union and Railroad Streets, this railroad station represents many such small railroad stations across America, and contains the typical passenger waiting area and telegrapher’s office. Passenger tickets could be purchased here or at several locations throughout downtown. A fare to Minneapolis-St. Paul was about $1.75 per passenger, and freight moved at about a penny a mile.


Duluth Railway Express Agency

The Duluth Railway Express Agency, originally located adjacent to the Union Depot on Michigan Street, provided speedy and dependable express transportation of packages, boxes, crates, cases, bags, cans, cages, and other containers that helped make Duluth a wonderful, cosmopolitan place to live.