Dec. 18, 2006
Duluth can be proud again of majestic
Opinion by News Tribune editorial board
Six-month restoration worthwhile as ornate performance
space returns to original glory
The gargoyles, eagles and grapevines inside the
majestic Duluth Denfeld High School auditorium will once again resonate
with song rather than clanks and clangs.
That’s on the schedule today in a holiday
concert marking the end of six months of restoration work that filled
the opera house-like space not with singing and public performances
but with scaffolding, tarps and workers.
The labor now completed, the satisfying result
is difficult to dispute. As the school district’s Kerry Leider
told the News Tribune last week of the $1.2 million investment to
save the landmark, “It’s just a grand facility. …
When I first saw it finished I had the same impression I think most
people will have when they see it, awe.”
That had to be a common reaction 80 years ago,
too, when the auditorium—with its 2,000 seats, orchestra pit,
pipe organ, balcony and bowled floor for premium viewing—was
first constructed in West Duluth. Modeled after buildings at Harvard
and Oxford, the venue was given its own entrance off 44th Avenue
West. That way, designers said, the facility could be a community
asset, not just a school amenity. With lush maroon drapes hanging
over doors and windows and 72-bulb brass and steel chandeliers gleaming,
the auditorium living up to its billing, hosting famed entertainers
like Louis Armstrong and Ed Sullivan.
In recent years, however, a leaking roof wreaked
havoc on the auditorium’s interior plaster. Paint chipped.
Draperies were stained and woodwork swelled. A separate fundraising
effort had to be launched to restore the old pipe organ.
The bigger project started in June. At mid-summer,
Leider told the News Tribune: “This auditorium has been an
asset to the district and the community with a lot of tradition
attached to it. … Its historical nature and unique features
deserve to be restored.
They absolutely did. And
Duluth can once again be proud of its Denfeld auditorium.