Fire In Duluth’s West End, 1962

January 17, 1962

The Osborne Block, 1902-08 W. Superior St. in Duluth, is coated in ice after being destroyed by fire on Jan. 17, 1962. (News-Tribune file photo)

It isn’t easy fighting a fire in Duluth in the winter — especially when it’s a massive fire and the temperature is well below zero.

The sad but spectacular scene was left after flames destroyed the Osborne Block in Duluth’s West End neighborhood (now Lincoln Park) on Jan. 17, 1962. The building was located at the corner of Superior Street and 19th Avenue West.

According to News-Tribune stories at the time, the fire broke out at about 6 a.m. and forced the residents of 15 apartments out into the cold, with temperatures about 30 below zero at the time. One woman was burned, and a firefighter suffered minor injuries. Fire crews were on the scene for hours, and eventually the decision was made to tear down the building later the same day, out of concern that the weight of all the ice might cause it to collapse.

In addition to apartments, the building housed the General Electronics Co., P&J Paint Co., Tri-State Neon Signs, West End Recreation Parlor and People’s Fuel and Paint Co. There was no immediate word on the cause of the fire.

Here’s how the same corner looks today:

Corner of Superior Street and 19th Avenue West, January 2018.

The furniture store building across the avenue is the same one that’s seen in the background of the 1962 photo, just with the windows covered by those red-and-white panels.

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3 Responses

  1. The original building still stands! There is evidence of the fire in the framework, but what’s there is original and being renovated. Thanks for the story and photos. It gives perspective and adds character to the Neighborhood. Feel free to stop in for a visit once construction is complete!

    1. Andrew

      Thanks for the info. By still stands – do you mean that the one-story building on that corner is the first floor of the building that burned?

      1. dhoole

        Yes. There are charred (reinforced) supports still visible and the front half of the ceiling needed to be totally re-done. But that’s the first floor of the old building. It’s being renovated right now to be an ice cream shop with a taphouse / deli next door. There’s now talk of a fire anniversary party after reading your story. Thanks! Let me know if you’d like a tour sometime.

        p.s. any idea who Osborne was and why he has a block named after him?

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