Tearing Down Glass Block, 1981

October 2, 1981

Demolition crews raze the former Glass Block department store building in downtown Duluth on Oct. 2, 1981. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

The Glass Block department store, an institution at the corner of Superior Street and Second Avenue West in downtown Duluth for decades, has been a frequent News Tribune Attic post topic. You can read more about it here, here, here and here.

The downtown Glass Block store closed in 1981 and was torn down later that year to make way for what is now the US Bank building.

A second Glass Block store opened in the Miller Hill Mall in 1973. The Glass Block name lingered on at that location until fall 1998, when it was sold and converted into the present-day Younkers store.

Here is one more look at the demolition of the downtown store, from the same day as the photo above:

Share your Glass Block memories by posting a comment.

10 Responses

  1. Barbara Terry

    This was my Great Grandfathers store in the 1800s. Then called Paton and White. My great Grandfather was John Panton.

    1. Steve Heimerle

      John Panton was married to my third cousin, Sophia D. MacDonald (1867-1939). She was born in Germany to Daniel Turner MacDonald (1821-1898) and my second cousin Anne Marie Holst (1837-1891). Just learned a lot about John and especially Daniel!

  2. Lisa Hoch

    I was the Dress Buyer for Glass Block from 1976 up until the time it closed in 1981. Although I bought for my departments for both the downtown and mall stores, I was stationed at the downtown store. I, too, loved eating in the basement restaurant…best homemade cream of mushroom soup and buttered toast ever! I always felt the downtown store was a friendlier, warmer place to be when compared to the mall, and it had the bonus that I could walk to work from home. I lost my job when the downtown store closed, since I was on that store’s payroll, and even though that was devastating, it made me even sadder to see the place torn down. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

  3. Sandra Jerina Black

    I loved Glass Block! When I was in high school I worked there during the holidays. I thought I was so cool to go to the restaurant on my lunch hour and eat with the “regulars”. I must have spent hours in front of the store over the years waiting for a bus, or getting off a bus. So sad to see so many memorable places gone in Duluth.

  4. Jon Leppala

    In the 60’s, I would walk downtown (saving 15 cents each way from riding the DTS) from the West End (before it was renamed) to purchase a Hardy Boy book from the 5th floor – maybe 3rd floor? book store for $1.00 (before the intrusion of sales tax). I would stop and look at the puffed chocolate squares on the first floor candy counter.

  5. Everyone who lived here loved Glass Block. I remember waiting inside its doors for buses on cold winter days, or buying perfumed stationery in the card department. When I was just married, I bought some engraved Christmas ornaments in the basement of the store. One of my favorite Glass Block “memories” is a story Jim Heffernan wrote just after the store closed. I still have it somewhere at home. I wonder if he’d share it with Attic readers again?

  6. Craig Johnson

    My Grandma Edna Larson worked there. It was always special to shop at Glass Block. Back to school clothes. New tennis shoes. My mom would take us kids. Then we would meet gramma for lunch downstairs. Always loved going downtown to shop. Glass Block was the best.

  7. Arvo deOulu

    When I was a little kid in the early 1950s, my dad would periodically bring us into town from the farm for a day, while he went to at work on the ore docks in Alloueze. With a few tokens and paper “transfers” we would take the bus all over Duluth and Superior. It would be a long day of shopping and spending time with various friends and relatives from Itaska to South Superior, to Oliver/New Duluth, to Lester Park — and every place in between.

    A cousin to my mother worked at the Glass Block for decades. When our visits took us into downtown Duluth, we’d always stop and see cousin Aliisa (Alice) at the Glass Block. In my mind, I can still remember some of the unique smells in the different departments, especially the shoe department and the coffee shop. If we didn’t eat in the coffee shop, there were some really wonderful places a few blocks either side of the Glass Block. I don’t remember the name, or even the location, but mom and Cousin Alice liked to go to a dark little hole-in-the-wall place where a lady with very long black hair would come around and read their tea leaves and palms after we got done eating. I was pretty young, but I seem to remember that we could see the depot when when we came out of this place, and it would have been on the north side of Superior Street.

    There were a number of other department stores in Duluth and Superior, but nothing was like the Glass Block. We had to take the early morning “Gopher” to Minneapolis to find bigger and better stores, like Dayton’s — where they had an escalator!

    As always, thanks for the great memories.

    Crazy Arvo

  8. I agree with Jan, downtown Duluth was awesome back in the day.
    The Glass Block was my grandfather’s favorite store and we spent many long hours there, shopping and having lunch.
    As a young teen, I remember feeling so grown up when shopping there.
    The store was a ‘class act’ all the way.
    When I got my first job, I couldn’t wait to go to Glass Block to buy some ‘real’ perfume.
    I think I ended up with Chanel #5.

  9. Jan Olson

    The Glass Block was one of those department stores that added to the wonder of downtown Duluth. Before mall development destroyed most of downtown shopping there was a grand hustle and bustle on Superior Street. One of my favorite memories of the Glass Block was the incredible candy counter with an assortment that would make one drool with pleasure as you were lured up the aisle by the smell of chocolate. I recall my friends and I always making a stop there to buy a white paper bagful of sponge candy, something we called “hot air”. The inside melted in your mouth while the chocolate coating helped you through your chocolate cravings. How I wish downtown Duluth could return to the days when the Glass Block reigned on the corner of Second Avenue East and Superior Street.

Comments are closed.