The Wedding Gift"I had a feeling of quiet, probably caused by the thick rugs, heavy draperies and dark paneling which was fashionable at that time.” These words, written by Charles Duncan’s granddaughter in a school essay, best describe the house encapsulated in yellow brick.
By: Story and Photography by Rebecca Osterlund, Living North
"I had a feeling of quiet, probably caused by the thick rugs, heavy draperies and dark paneling which was fashionable at that time.” These words, written by Charles Duncan’s granddaughter in a school essay, best describe the house encapsulated in yellow brick.
The 55-room estate was built in 1907 by Charles Duncan, a lumber baron and
president of the Great Northern Power company, and it served as a wedding present to his wife.
Located in the historic Congdon Park district, the elegance and opulence of the pre-depression twentieth century is evident throughout the 15,000 square foot residence and is displayed in a variety of architectural styles. Classical, avant garde and neo-medieval styles mesh together to form the heavy quiet so aptly described by Duncan’s granddaughter.
After the Great Depression, the home faced abandonment and ruin but was saved by the Catholic Diocese of Duluth and served as a bishop’s headquarters until 1984. Evidence of the bishop’s habitation can be
seen in the room formerly known as the front porch. During the 1960s this room was completely remodeled and transformed into the bishop’s personal chapel.
In 1984, Ken and Mona Knutson purchased the home from the Catholic
Diocese and initially changed the estate to a counseling facility for victims of post-traumatic stress disorder. Later, they converted the home into a bed-and-breakfast and restored some of the rooms to their former grandeur.
This restoration is best displayed in the oval–shaped dining room. The Knutsons took out the acoustic ceiling tiles popular in the 1960s and changed the ceiling back to its original design. This Renaissance period
room boasts a Tiffany mosaic inlaid tile fireplace.
The sprawling manor still boasts its original porte-cochere where two gilded elephants trumpet the arrival of guests. Oregon Creek trickles through the grounds and residents can best hear the water’s gurgles
through the screened-in porch located on the second floor. The third floor houses expansive, plush bedrooms and a nursery.
Above all, the house is a testament to a time when Duluth housed more millionaires per capita than any other city in the United States. Its secrets and memories float throughout the rooms, written in the lines of
the woodwork and housed in finery.