Downtown Duluth: Old or Historic?

By KBJR News 1

February 11, 2013 Updated Feb 11, 2013 at 11:20 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.COM) - Duluth has 107 historic buildings in the downtown area alone. But the years haven't been easy on some of those structures, begging the question – what makes some buildings historic and others just plain old?

One of those structures is the Carter hotel, which is part of the 107 buildings that make up the Commercial Historic District, an area which is on the National Historic Registry.

The building's owner, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, wants to tear it down, saying it's beyond salvage.

So is there a point at which a building goes from being of historical value to just an old eyesore?

"Duluth has a wealth of historic buildings," said Ken Buehler of the Duluth Historic Preservation Commission, "A historic structure is one that tells a story that is not being told by any building today."

Buehler says that that's an important definition, as there are many historic structures in the city and keeping up with all of them is a tall order.

Mayor Don Ness says there's a fine line between historical buildings that add to the community and others that don't.

"That's the balance point, that's the discussion that we in the community need to have," Ness said, "protecting the historic integrity of our downtown and, at the same time, encouraging investment, encouraging new vitality."

Buehler says, when possible, buildings should be adaptively reused, so the structure doesn't have to go. Otherwise, decisions should be made based on just how historically important the building is.

"There's no possible way a city with limited means can save them all," he said.

Buehler mentioned the possibility of revitalizing the inside portions of older buildings while keeping the historic exterior, citing the method's success in another city.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.