Susie Medway on the History of Duluth


Because of the natural resources and transportation links to the city, Duluth, at the turn of the 19th to 20th Centuries, became home to ‘more millionaires per capita than any state in the nation’. Luxurious homes were built, businesses prospered and the workforce did too. Many of the downtown buildings were designated as the National Historic Register District, and the Duluth Historic District features significant buildings, such as the mansion district. These mansions and commercial buildings represent the greatest period of Duluth’s history, between 1872 and 1929, with their distinctive architectural styles. The Romanesque and Revival styles were particularly popular at this time.
The homes built between 1900 to 1920 featured a unique attention to detail. Mansions were built to last and included solid wood doors, trims and ceiling moldings, brass lock sets and artisan tiles. Flooring was hardwood and houses were designed to allow maximum light into properties. Rebecca Lindquist, a designer, featured in the Duluth Superior Magazine and stressed the importance of sympathetic renovation, to maintain the beauty of these old houses and mansions and claimed ‘isn’t it wonderful when we can give our beautiful older homes the new life they deserve’. The boom times of the early twentieth century were reflected in the historic mansions that were built to last.

The Cotton Mansion

The Cotton Mansion represents the Mansion District beautifully and has been restored over the years in keeping with its rich history. It was built in 1906 by Joseph and Louise Cotton and was a focal point of social life in Duluth because of its beauty and enviable position close to the Lake. With its Grand Parlor, Library and Formal Dining Room it made an ideal setting for the attorney for U.S. Steel and John Rockefeller.
Joseph Cotton was a prominent member of society and a highly regarded figure of Duluth. In 1904 he seconded the nomination of Theodore Roosevelt and he became attorney for the Railway Company, the Mountain Mining Companies and Lake Superior Consolidated Iron Mines, among other important professional roles. He and his wife Louise built the Cotton Mansion in 1906 at 2309 East First Street.
Visitors to Duluth today enjoy the unique and luxurious setting of the Cotton Mansion, close to the heart of the city and its beautiful waterfront location.

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