Duluth Union Station

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When we were planning our trip to Duluth, I told my brother that the only place I was adding to the “must see” list was Duluth Union Station or Duluth Depot. Not only is it a historic railroad station, it’s home to a railroad museum and a historic train that runs various excursions along the north shore of Lake Superior. After reading numerous complaints about arguments on those train rides over masks and the nine-month-ago US election, we decided to drive along the north shore. I will shore posts from that drive in the weeks to come.

I found the Nomination form that was submitted in 1970 and accepted in 1971 to place the station on the National Registry of Historic Places (NRHP). I am including three paragraphs from the form below. In 1969, when train service ended, the building was being considered for demolition. It’s evident that the group(s) working to preserve the building by placing it on the NRHP to save it from that fate. The building reopened in 1973 as The Depot St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center.

The station itself is beautiful and is home to several museum spaces. The large public spaces were open, but the smaller more specific museums were closed. The railroad museum was open, and we did tour. It’s too much to add to this post, but if you’ve been following me for a while, you know it’s coming

Embodying the characteristics of the French Chateau style, this unique public building is a pleasing part of the Duluth Landscape. The exterior is symmetrical about the entrance with steeply pitched roof masses building up to the towering central position. The windows are framed with limestone and each unit is subdivided by a limestone cross. A trio of arches make up the street level entrance, and an ornate pedimented dormer rises high above the central arch. The rectangular forms are relieved by projecting circular towers topped by gently flaring witches’ hats. The total effect is that of an eighteenth-century French chateau.

This impressive French Chateau structure is recognized as a significant part of the heritage of the city of Duluth. Characteristic of the elaborate and massive buildings which were being built in the late 1800’s the Depot reflected the affluence and prosperity of this quickly growing commercial center. It is an excellent example of the many majestic terminals constructed during the early days of the development of the powerful railroad companies. For Duluth it represented contact with the coasts of the nation. Designed by the distinguished and nationally prominent firm of Peabody & Stearns of Boston, the Duluth Union Depot remains truly unique and distinctive among the public buildings in Minnesota.

NRHP Nomination Form – Entry Number:

I truly appreciate the last paragraph from the nomination form. I added the emphasis to the last sentence.

The Depot itself is to be converted into a public, non-profit cultural center housing the St Louis County Historical Society, the Duluth Art Institute, the Duluth Playhouse, and the Ohisholm Museum, This step is being planned to improve upon the maintenance of the structure while putting it in service to the community, no changes will be made which might destroy the architectural character, and certain details will be restored.

NRHP Nomination Form – Entry Number:

Thanks for visiting Thursday Doors. I hope you enjoy the photos in my gallery and I hope you have time to visit the doors shared by the other participants.

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  1. I look forward to your Thursday Doors posts, Dan. I look for them first thing on a Thursday. What a great place to visit. I love trains and stations. The picture of the door at the top of the stairs is very inspirational.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I remember our parents shipping things to distant relatives via Railway Express (REA).

      I enjoyed walking through the scenes from one of my favorite shows – thanks for sharing those.


    • In the 1800s, the depot would be the first thing you saw when visiting a new city. There was a quiet competition to make a great statement. This is evidenced by the fact that they hires a prestigious architectural firm from Boston to design the building. I’m glas they saved it from being destroyed in the name of progress.

      I learned so much from your post, today, I love the doors and the sculptures.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That photo of Track 7 made me wish for the power to walk into a photo and actually be there. And that’s an old stove with your favorite door? Loud applause for all those who worked to preserve this place and everything in it! Thanks for taking us there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Maureen. I love the way they created a railroad setting around the trains on display, It gave an authentic feeling to our tour. Walking through the building and imagining the hustle and bustle of activity that must have been present when eight different railroads were using the station, was fun. I will be sharing doors from the trains in the near future.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love it when you combine trains and doors because this means happy Dan. Your favourite door is a very important one. I like the train museum teaser shot and all the white doors, and the grain commission one.

    My doors are from our last trip two days ago. It included a visit of the ghost town called Celleno. Luckily for us, they kept some doors:


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Manja. You know I’ll be sharing doors from the museum for a couple of weeks. I love trains, and we were able to walk through many of the ones on display.

      I loved your tour of the ghost town. I can see why people wouldn’t want to live there, but I’m glad you can visit.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great tour Dan. The powers that be turned this depot into a showplace, without losing its originality. Bravo. Love the old stove. I wonder how many freezing pairs of hands were rubbed together in front of it? You must’ve been in your glory walking through every room. It just goes to show you, in the right hands, the old can become new while retaining its original beauty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I walked over and stood by that stove, Ginger. It must have been a welcome sight in Duluth in the late 1800s. I am so glad that people had the courage and energy to take on the task of saving this building from destruction. I’m sure there were developers itching to get their hands on that property. The fact that they gave it a purpose by which they could generate enough money for maintenance is remarkable.


  5. I was impressed with ‘French Chateau style’ but that last sentence in the application form is the most important. Thank you for emphasizing it even further. Are those rounded rooftops called turrets? What a beautiful buildin–I’m so glad it has been saved. The library is so modern, but I do like how streamlined it is. Nice juxtapose to keep the street interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh dang. I was getting happy when Judy got email three posts in a row. I guess it was too much to expect that they had fixed this mess.

      I know you love storybook style. Maybe, just maybe, next May, a passenger named, oh, let’s call her Steffie, steps off a train and causes (or prevents) some mayhem.

      I liked your doors, and the story about three bold women ;-)


  6. That train station looks like quite a destination. I cannot say as I blame you for skipping the train ride. I will look forward to the other posts. It looks like thirsty work. I hope you found a suitable place in your explorations.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What an absolutely stunning building! The high ceilings and the attention to detail is wonderful. It is so nice to know that there are people who care about such things and will work diligently to preserve.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love trains, train stations and the sound of a faraway whistle. You reminded me of Edna St. Vincent Millay, when she wrote.

    My heart is warm with friends I make,
    And better friends I’ll not be knowing;
    Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
    No matter where it’s going.”

    When I lived in an isolated mining time in Northern Manitoba, the only way in was by plane or train. The train carried the ore out to market so it was quite long. Canadian National Railway (CN) would add 2 extra cars at the end of the train. It took 11 hours to travel 200 miles . How I loved every minute of looking out the window and seeing the world (lots of bush and trees) go by. Thank you for the reminder. P.S. Did you get photos of The Blue Ox?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that poem, Rebecca. I took the train whenever I could. I traveled to New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C. by train for years. I never got tired of those trips. When we get back to the point where we don’t have to think so much about travel, I hope to visit NYC for sure and perhaps Washington. NYC is three hours, door-to-door and Washington is six and a half.

      We did not see Babe.

      I’ll be sharing train doors for a couple weeks.


  9. Haha. Dan, I had to chuckle when you wrote that this was the only place in your vacation that you absolutely had to see. Of course it was a train station. :D
    Back in the days when I could travel a little bit, I only saw a few train stations and they were gorgeous. One in a bad part of Tijuana, the old part of the one in Albuquerque (not including the renovated part), and Union Station in DC. Wishing you a good weekend. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Teagan. I am the guy who on my only free day on my only ever trip to London, took a train to see Bletchley Park – I’m not your typical tourist.

      I love the Union Stations. I’ve been to many of them. I’d like to see more. They were remarkable buildings. Washington’s Union Station is marvelous.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. What a train station, Dan. It’s high enough for four floors! What gorgeous architecture. No wonder this was your must-see on your trip. I agree with your favorite door – the woodstove.

    I mentioned that I haven’t seen too many train stations because I haven’t traveled by train too much. How soon I forgot that I traveled by train often when I was in Hong Kong. I love the old Tsim Sha Tsui railway station with the clock tower. The new station is modernized and the clock tower is preserved in a nearby location.

    One year when I went back to Hong Kong, because of the new buildings, I got disoriented. I spotted the clock tower and that helped me find my direction!


    • It was fun to visit, Brenda. I was happy to see how authentic they were able to keep it. I would have liked to have ridden the train, but the recent reviews didn’t seem to point to a great experience.


  11. Dan, this is wonderful! You know my love of trains, architecture, and history. Thank you for this hat trick. The last sentence in the nomination form was worthy of highlighting.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Since I went by train to a school in another town in 5th and 6th grade and after high school for an evening class, trains refer to happy times for me. Am glad I finally was able to read your post (better late than never, lol!)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Dan – gosh I’d love to visit … what a fascinating place to at least get an overview about. I’d also love to visit the exhibitions … thanks for your various photos … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Interesting and different than expected from a train station. I for one am glad you look up! Beams and lamps at Duluth are definitely worth a shot!
    Did you happen to visit the library? So sleek and modern – what a contrast!

    Liked by 2 people

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