Denfeld News

Dec. 18, 2006
Duluth News Tribune

Duluth can be proud again of majestic Denfeld auditorium
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.

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