Art and Architecture in Duluth

The Friends enjoyed an insider’s tour of art and architecture in Duluth on June 17 and 18, highlighted by a visit to the historic Glensheen mansion and the home of renowned architect David Salmela.
It was a cool overcast day in Duluth, upon arrival, and showers were predicted. The view was spectacular as we sat above the clouds and mist looking down on the vast Lake Superior; its tributaries and the ore docks.
After a brief and refreshing stop we progressed to the Glensheen Mansion where we were treated to a personal tour from Glensheen Director Dan Hartman our charming, enthusiastic and visionary host. Dan has made amazing progress in restoring it to its original glory and opening it up to visitors in many new and exciting ways such as Kayak Tours.
Historians Penny Petersen and Rachel Peterson from Hess Roise Historical Consultants brought out Ms. Condon’s WWII Red Cross uniform and a 1920’s white silk beaded “flapper” dress from the Glensheen collection along with treasured porcelain dishes and historical world maps. The clouds dissipated and the sun shone as we toured the gardens that were in full bloom and a month behind the cities giving us a second dose of spring.
Architect David Salmela and homeowner Dave Arvold greeted us at the Arvold home. Salmela explained how his designs bring light inside from all angles and use familiar classical elements alongside modernist forms.  The home is filled with soft light and feels warm, comfortable and inviting. One Friend commented, “if that were our master bedroom perched in the sky above Lake Superior we’d never get out of bed.

David Salmela explains his design vision.
David Salmela explains his design vision.

As we prepared to leave we discovered that our bus was hung-up in the steep turn- around at the end of the street and a tow truck was on its way….and what a tow truck it was; a $400,000 piece of serious machinery with an operator who was all business until he turned in to a Teddy Bear upon completing the extrication. While we waited we “lollygagged” on the Loll chairs on the deck and sunbathed on the lawn. Problem solved we made our way to the historic Fitger’s Inn.  Donning our required “coats and ties” we dined in the “Great Room” at the historic Kitchi Gammi Club.
After a restful night at Fitger’s we embarked upon our second day with perfect temperatures and sunshine.
David and Gladys Salmela welcomed us to their home and studios. Gladys is a seamstress extraordinaire.  Her top floor sewing room has 180° of windows and was much admired (and coveted) by the seamstresses in our group. The house sits on a rocky hill along with several Salmela designed homes looking down on Duluth and Lake Superior.  Although it’s quite a distance from downtown and the Lake it feels as though you could reach-out and touch them. David’s studio is full of meticulously built models. We proceeded next door where the Halls welcomed us to their home, which was built right in to the enormous rock using a foundation from an original house. It’s another award winning architectural gem with an art collection and treasures from world travel to match.
On to the award winning Bagley Classroom Building at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Bagley Nature Center.  It is the first and only U of M building with a LEED Platinum designation. Located in the Nature Reserve, students can now attend class in the midst of what they are studying.  We loved the outdoor area complete with well-used fireplace.
We ended our day with tours of the HAWKBOOTS and Loll manufacturing facilities. Begun as the maker of skate parks they now use the same materials to produce Epicurean cutting boards, kitchen utensils and Loll outdoor furniture.
After being filled with beautiful sites, extraordinary vistas and most of all warm and charming hosts we fell in to our comfortable bus for a sleepy, relaxing ride home.
Enjoy the photos posted in folders for each tour site:
“The Job of the Architect” about David Salmela by Horacio Devoto is beautifully done. (The video we weren’t able to play on the bus.)