October 18, 1961
Freimuth’s Department store at the corner of Superior Street and Lake Avenue in downtown Duluth, circa 1960. (News-Tribune file photo)
Freimuth’s to quit business today
Duluth Herald, October 18, 1961
Freimuth’s Department Store, Duluth’s oldest family-owned firm, will go out of business at 5:15 p.m. today.
J.J. Mickelson, Minneapolis, court-appointed trustee of the financially troubled store, ordered the closing. He said he had no alternative.
The store went into bankruptcy Monday after a reorganization plan, worked out by the U.S. District Court and the referee in bankruptcy in Minneapolis, failed to restore the firm’s financial footing.
Edgar Freimuth, president of Freimuth’s, at 2 W. Superior St., said his 60 employees did not learn of their job losses until Tuesday. He told them as soon as he learned of the decision, he said.
Freimuth’s was founded in 1883 by the present president’s grandfather, I. Freimuth, as a general store, and was moved to its present location in 1900 from 119 W. Superior St.
Freimuth said another 40 persons are employed in leased departments which "will remain open at least temporarily." The leased departments are Gift House Stamps, furniture, beauty shop, a post office sub-station, millinery, watches and jewelry, downtown ticket office, restaurant and shoe repair.
Freimuth said he "explored every possible course of keeping the store operating." …
"I had no alternative but to order the closing," Mickelson said. "The reorganization plan failed. If the people of Duluth were interested in keeping Freimuth’s open they should have supplied the necessary capital." …
Mickelson said he will come to Duluth and make arrangements for a complete inventory of the stock. Then he will decide whether to sell the inventory in bulk "or to someone who wants to operate a department store," he said.
Freimuth’s was located on the site of what is now an open plaza next to the Minnesota Power building, where the city Christmas tree is displayed each year.
After the department store closed, the building – known as the Fowler Building – sat largely vacant for several years. It was acquired, along with the neighboring Fidelity Building, in 1968 by a group called Duluth Downtown Properties Inc., and was razed in April of that year (more on that below).
In November 1968, the News-Tribune reported that the group 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."
Obviously, that didn’t happen. From what I can tell, the site sat empty until the Minnesota Power complex went in…. but if anyone out there knows more and can fill in the gaps, please post a comment.
The photo above has some nice detail. Here are some zoomed-in views.
Looking south down Lake Avenue, there is the railing of the bridge over Michigan Street, then the Metropole Hotel building. Among the other signs just visible are one for Joe Huie’s Cafe, and one for Old Bohemian beer:
Here is a look at the busy Superior Street facade of Freimuth’s:
Next door to the Freimuth’s building was the Fidelity Building, housing – at this time – what appears to be the Kelley-Duluth hardware store (the sign is a bit hard to read). Beyond that to the west, it looks like there was a furniture store:
Here is another photo of Freimuth’s, from August 4, 1959, showing a window display that must have been celebrating the new St. Lawrence Seaway:
In the background, behind the people looking in the window, is a building with a "Diamonds" sign on it, so I’m guessing it housed a jewelry store. It appears that it’s located where the Tech Village complex is today. Anyone have more information?
As mentioned earlier, the Freimuth’s / Fowler Building came down in April 1968. Here are a couple photos of the demolition, both from April 16, 1968:
Razing of the Freimuth Building in Duluth began Monday, attracting the attentionof pedestrians on the Lake Avenue viaduct sidewalk. Demolition of the building by Earth Movers of Duluth, Inc., is on contract to Duluth Downtown Properties Inc. The latter corporation is razing the structure for possible development of a retail store, parking ramp and motel complex. (News-Tribune file photo)
Visible in the photo above is an entrance to Joe Huie’s Cafe and the Metropole Bar:
Here is the second razing photo:
The Freimuth Building, long an important part of the Duluth business community, is being razed for possible development of a retail store, parking ramp and motel complex. (Duluth Herald file photo)
Visible in this photo are a Fitger’s beer sign along Michigan Street behind the crane, and in the far, far background is a very early Skywalk "bridge" over Michiagn Street – I think that’s the one out the back of what is now Wells Fargo Bank:
Finally, here is the last Freimuth’s image from the archives – an undated artist’s concept for what probably would have been a major renovation, rather than a replacement, of the Freimuth’s Building:
This would probably date to 1955-1960; judging from the financial difficulties the store faced in 1961, I don’t think they would have been planning such major work anytime after 1960.
So that’s everything about Freimuth’s in the Attic’s clipping and photo files… and I’m exhausted. I’ve been going at a whirlwind pace on posting the past couple months. I’m going to scale back just a bit in frequency of posting for a while; we’ll see you back here in a few days.