Wrecking crews start to demolish the Fidelity Building in downtown Duluth in April 1977. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)
The Fidelity Building stood in downtown Duluth for about 65 years, on the site now occupied by Lake Superior Plaza – along the south side of Superior Street just west of Lake Avenue. Demolition crews knocked it down in 1977 to clear the way for Lake Superior Plaza, home to Allete and Minnesota Power’s headquarters.
Freimuth’s Department Store was right on the corner of Superior and Lake on that block; it was the subject of a previous Attic post. Fidelity was next door. Articles at the time of demolition reported it as both 12 and 14 stories tall; perhaps there was a difference of opinion on whether the small structures up top were actual “stories.”
Initially, the plan was to demolish the Fidelity Building with explosives; less than two weeks before the demolition date, the News-Tribune reported:
“The Fourth of July, minus the rockets’ red glare, will arrive three months early in Duluth, but not for the reason you think. There will be a massive explosion in downtown Duluth at 8 a.m. April 3, and when the dust clears, it will mark the first time that a Minnesota building was destroyed by blasting. The victim is the Fidelity Building.”
Officials with Minnesota Lumber and Wrecking of St. Paul told the paper in March 1977 that smokestacks and concrete footings had previously been destroyed by explosives, but at that time no Minnesota building had been imploded.
However, difficulties in obtaining insurance scuttled plans for the implosion, and the building was razed using more traditional wrecking methods. It took less than three weeks for the building to be reduced to rubble.
Bystanders look on as the Fidelity Building in downtown Duluth is razed in April 1977. (News-Tribune file photo)
There had been efforts to find a new use for the Fidelity Building back in 1968. It was having troubles then – only 30 percent occupied, with thousands owed in back property taxes. In November 1968, the News-Tribune reported that a group of Duluth businessmen wanted to remodel the Fidelity Building “for use as a motor hotel of about 100 units. It would be in conjunction with a parking ramp and retail shops to be constructed on the site of the Freimuth Building,” which had been razed earlier that year.
But the plans never came to pass, and a decade later the Lake Superior Plaza project spelled the end for the Fidelity Building.
Demolition work continues on the Fidelity Building in downtown Duluth on April 20, 1977. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)
There was one last bit of controversy regarding the Fidelity Building – or, rather, what was left of it. Brick and concrete rubble from the building was dumped in West Duluth near the corner of Main Street and 52nd Avenue West, where the NewPage paper mill now stands. The proximity of that site to St. Louis Bay prompted complaints and the possibility of fines from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the News-Tribune reported in July 1977.
I’m not sure how the dispute was resolved – the clipping file for the Fidelity Building ends with that article.
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The demolition of the Fidelity Building is almost complete in this view from April 26, 1977. (News-Tribune file photo)