The Old Town Hall boutique hotel will pay homage to Duluth’s history
The Oliver Inn, named after architect Duluth Oliver Traphagen, who designed the 1889 building at 132 E. Superior St., will have 13 rooms spread over three floors of the building.
Katrina Pierson of Katrina Lynn Consulting takes care of the interior design and decoration of the hotel.
“The idea is that we want to tell the stories and preserve the history of Duluth, but at the same time bring those stories to life in a new and contemporary way,” said Pierson. “We also honor and remember those whose stories may have been forgotten or not shared as much.”
Owner Rod Raymond said he had no plans to convert the event spaces and offices on the top floor of the building – which also houses the Japanese restaurant Wasabi, Evolve yoga studio and Rathskeller bar – but the coronavirus pandemic forced his hand.
Owner Rod Raymond (left) and interior designer Katrina Pierson, both from Duluth, explain room themes at the Oliver Inn on Tuesday, June 22, 2021 in Duluth. The boutique hotel is housed in the old Duluth Town Hall on East Superior Street and takes its name from architect Oliver Traphagen. (Clint Austin / [email protected])
“It was crickets with COVID, and it’s not going to work, so we decided to build it in this boutique hotel,” he said. “We did it because we had to, and now I’m so excited we’re doing it.”
The top floor and upper street level will have a total of nine deluxe rooms, each named after and themed important figures from Duluth’s past, furnished with antiques and decorated with contemporary art.
The largest room will be the bedroom suite in the former City Council Hall, which was used in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The bedroom will be a master suite that can accommodate up to six people. Its paneling is original wood salvaged from Rathskeller’s renovation, Raymond said.
The remaining eight chambers will be named after Duluth’s following historical figures. Each room will have some of its decor and some decorative touches that Pierson plans to implement.
Guilford and Caroline Hartley: Businessman Duluth and his wife had interests in almost every industry in the late 1800s, including railroading, logging, and the development of the Mesabi Railway and some of its cities. Hartley built the Orpheum Theater and helped establish the Northland Country Club. He also owned the Duluth News Tribune after buying James J. Hill. The Hartleys were the first in Duluth to have electricity in their home.
Chester and Clara Congdon: Chester, a lawyer, helped form the largest producer of iron ore on the Mesabi Range, which became known as United States Steel. He was also a representative of the Republican state. Clara was an art and language teacher and then looked after their estate and their seven children in Glensheen.
The Merritt Brothers: Three of Lewis Merritt’s eight sons – Alfred, Leonidas and Cassius – opened the Mesabi Iron Chain to industry. They owned the mines and built railroads and ore docks to transport the ore. The Merritt family ended up losing everything to investor John D. Rockefeller when he recalled their debts after the financial panic of 1893.
Mayor Samuel Snively: Duluth’s longest-serving mayor, Snively served from 1921 to 1937. The lawyer also created several roads although he never learned to drive, including Seven Bridges Road in Duluth and US Highway 2 in northwestern Wisconsin.
Roger and Olive Munger: Roger, from one of the first families to settle in Duluth, built much of the town’s original infrastructure, including the first flour mill, the coal wharf, the sawmill, the opera house, and was responsible for digging the first maritime canal. He also sat on the first chamber of commerce, the school board and the municipal council.
Mary McFadden: The first female journalist and full-time editor at the Duluth News Tribune, McFadden was also a poet, suffragist and activist. She campaigned against the tonnage tax which helped Duluth’s economic development.
Sara Burger Stearns: The suffragist was the founder and first president of the Minnesota Women Suffrage Association. She has also been an advocate for housing for women and children and served on the Duluth school board.
Dorothy Arnold: The Duluth actress had a 20-year film career between 1937 and 1958. Arnold was the first wife of baseball player Joe DiMaggio, with whom she had a child.
“We are appointing chambers specifically for women who had an influence on Duluth whose stories may have been well known in their time, but their legacies did not continue in the same way as their male counterparts,” Pierson said. .
Four bedrooms on the lower level, adjacent to the Evolve yoga studio, will be hostel-style accommodations called Swede Town. Raymond sees the space as a tribute to the working class immigrants in Duluth’s history. Each private room will have a sink, an espresso machine and will share two bathrooms. Swede Town rooms will be cheaper and designed for people on the go. They will have more of a minimalist industrial feel with exposed rock faces.
IB Dard of Duluth repairs the woodwork at the Oliver Inn on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, in Duluth. The boutique hotel is the old Duluth Town Hall on East Superior Street and takes its name from architect Oliver Traphagen. (Clint Austin / [email protected])
All Oliver Inn guests will have access to a cedar sauna and Evolve Fitness Room at Michigan Street. Raymond said the location is ideal for visitors to Duluth as it is close to downtown restaurants and cafes, the Lakewalk, Canal Park, and the historic arts and theater district. Plus, guests wouldn’t even have to leave the building to access a bar or restaurant.
Raymond, who also owns the Endion Station boutique hotel in Canal Park, said demand for places like this is very high in Duluth.
“Duluth is rich and unique,” Raymond said. “There will be nothing like this place in the Midwest.”
Pierson said the project is part of the “Roaring 2020s” revitalization that much of downtown Duluth hopes to see.
“It will be luxury, but we want you to walk in space and feel like stepping into the bedroom of a friend who has traveled a lot, so there is comfort, too,” Pierson said.