Join the 43rd Annual Duluth Preservation Alliance Awards Ceremony

Jill Fisher

Plaque award winner: The 1904 Edward and Lucretia Bradley House. Photo by Jill Fisher.

May is National Preservation Month so it is timely that the Duluth Preservation Alliance will hold its Annual Awards Ceremony in the week ahead. This is the 43rd year for the event and it takes place at the historic Masonic Temple at 4 West 2nd Street on Thursday, May 16.

The Masonic Temple is one of the most beautiful and intact interiors in the Twin Ports and the public is welcome and encouraged to attend. At the conclusion of the ceremony there will be a reception and the opportunity of taking a tour of the former Central High School building.  

The DPA’s program highlights properties that have been sensitively restored, rehabilitated, adapted for reuse and/or preserved. Plaques are awarded for outstanding work with Letters of Recognition presented for more limited projects. Centennial Homes certificates are also given to owners of residential properties that are 100 years old or older which retain their historic integrity. This year plaques will be awarded to owners of six properties.  

Bud and Ruth Darling are the owners of the 1886 Max Wirth Building located at 13 West Superior Street. As one of the few 19th century buildings remaining in downtown Duluth, it embodies the rich architectural traditions of its era with rough-faced sandstone exterior and varied bow and Roman and Tudor arched windows. The first floor retail space had been restored back in the 1990s with the removal of mid-20th century aluminum cladding. The pediment began tipping and needed to be reconstructed using 35 hand-carved replacement stones to match the deteriorated originals.  

A Zenith City landmark, the former Central High School Building has been cited as one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in the country. Since its dedication in time for the 1892 school year, the building has gone through a couple incarnations. When the building was abandoned as a school in 1971, it served as the school district’s administrative offices. More recently various community and non-profit groups have been based there. And now the building has been adapted for residential apartments by Saturday Properties. The plaque is being awarded for both interior and exterior restoration and rehabilitation work.  

Another plaque will be awarded to Adam and Kelly Aarsvold for their careful restoration work on and stewardship of the Edward and Lucretia Bradley House in the Congdon neighborhood. This impressive Georgian Revival-style residence, with its monumental front porch featuring elaborate Corinthian columns, was constructed in 1904 for the Bradleys. After 120 years replacement of the floor joists was required; refinishing of floors on the first level was a part of that work. Besides this, the two-story portico was refurbished with new supports and decking installed. Chimneys were also rebuilt and half of the brick exterior tuckpointed.  

A less grandiose residence is the Sheldon Atkins House in the Lakeside neighborhood. Though more modest in scale, this 1908 Bungalow and its associated detached garage has nevertheless received tender loving care by owner Julie Mockler. A new furnace and a new garage roof were among the major but less than noticeable improvements. Substantial rehabilitation work on the interior was also undertaken. This included uncovering and restoring the original kitchen floor, removing carpeting and refinishing original wood flooring. New wooden steps lead up to the front porch which received a new beadboard ceiling. Repair of a front retaining wall and new landscaping is also recognized with this award.  

Another significant adaptive reuse project being recognized with a plaque is that of the Bell Telephone “Hemlock Exchange” Building undertaken by Mike Poupore. (Poupore is the proprietor of a development and construction company and is a former president of the DPA.) The exchange building was built in 1921 when telephones were becoming a standard household utility. Like Old Central High School, this building also housed another use, the RecyclaBell all-ages music venue, from 1993-1997. An interim owner removed the metal pipes and radiators and, with the money received from salvaging that material, reroofed the building. It was vacant for several years before Poupore purchased the property in 2015. He has created 11 apartments with all the attendant rehabilitation work that entails: restoration and/or replacement of windows, installation of a new heating system, rewiring and replumbing. Poupore is also to be recognized for his work on this project by the City of Duluth Planning Commission as recipient of its 2024 Zenith Award on May 14.  

The stone pavilion in Lincoln Park was constructed in 1934 and has had it rough during its 90 years. Built with federal funds intended to provide work during the Depression, the building had suffered neglect and inevitable deterioration until a neighborhood initiative in the late 1990s led to its restoration in 2002. (The DPA gave the project a preservation award that year.) The 2012 flooding of Miller Creek, which runs through Lincoln Park, damaged the pavilion and as a further insult vandals torched the building in July 2014. Fortunately when improvements to the entire park these past couple of years, the pavilion received the necessary and deserved rehabilitation work. The City of Duluth is the recipient of the award.  

Seven Letters of Recognition will be presented during DPA’s ceremony, among them St. James Catholic School for the sensitive replacement of windows in the 1914 structure. Nine residences that are 100 years old or older will also be awarded Centennial Home Certificates on this evening including the reputed oldest house in Duluth, the Peter J. Peterson House built in 1867  in the Fond du Lac neighborhood, is of special interest.

Doors of the Masonic Center will open at 6 pm for the 6:30 start of the ceremony. A reception with hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be held at the conclusion of the event, to which the public is invited.