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The Redstone

The Redstone’s architecture
The Redstone is Victorian in design. Its most interesting exterior features include a somewhat ornate carved redstone facade, with towers, conical roofs, unusual dormers and stone window dressing. The other three sides of the building are of a more ordinary red brick construction.

 redstone front

The Redstone was originally designed as a double house, with a brick wall through the middle of the structure from the basement to the attic. Each side was virtually the same, with the exception of the curved windows in the front of the west side and the straight windows with wood wainscoting beneath them on the east side. Each side of the building had separate entrances, furnaces and sewer lines.

The building was converted by the Congdon family into nine small apartments in 1919. It stayed that way until it was renovated by HTK in 1986.

The tile floors in each entryway are original. The entrance area is wainscoted in quarter-sawn oak, a wood that was used considerably during the late 1800s.

 redstone upper facade

The original parlor of the east side of the house is still used as a parlor. The woodwork in this room is cherry. A few of the doors and trim (those that were added during the apartment conversion in 1919) are birch. The front windows of this room form a bay, which is in contrast to the front parlor of the west side of the house (now our conference room), where the windows are curved. Our conference room, with the exception of its curved windows, was originally identical to the east side parlor.

During the 1919 conversion, a lavatory was added in the west side entryway. It includes the only original piece of plumbing left in the building, the marble-top sink. The legs for the sink are from the Board of Trade Building, which was also designed by Oliver Traphagen. The high-top toilets on the main floor are also antique, but not original to the house. They were completely rebuilt, but all the parts are original.

The interior of the building has 10 fireplaces, all but one of which still have the original tile. All have the original mantles, although parts of one are missing. The fireplaces were made for burning coal. They have all been capped off for heating and insurance purposes.

 redstone detail        redstone detail

All of the light fixtures in the building are antique, except the fluorescent lights on the second and third floors (and the ceiling fans). Most of the antique lights are combination gas and electric fixtures, popular when the Redstone was built because electricity was relatively new and not well trusted. These fixtures were collected throughout the United States, but many were found in northern Minnesota.

There are many hardwood floors in the building. Originally, all the floors were quarter-sawn oak, but many were replaced with a narrower maple flooring during the conversion to apartments.

As was common in the late Victorian times, the Redstone features fancy ornamentation on the radiators and carving on the nickel-plated, brass hardware.

The antique furnishings throughout the house have been, for the most part, collected locally. The goal is to mix the modern equipment needed to efficiently operate an advertising agency with the personality and charm of antique furnishings that fit the architecture.

redstone water fountain       redstone entrance

The Redstone timeline

1891 | Design sketches for the Oliver G. Traphagen House, or “The Redstone,” are completed by the architectural firm of Traphagen & Fitzpatrick. Construction begins.

1892 | Construction is completed.

1895 | Chester Congdon and his family move into the west side of the Redstone.

1897 | Traphagen sells the Redstone to Chester Congdon. Congdon family converts the double house into a single house by removing parts of the center wall.

1908 | The Congdon family moves out of the Redstone.

1919 | After Chester Congdon’s death, his family spends $20,000 to convert the Redstone from a double home into nine small apartments.

1933 | The Congdon family sells the Redstone. Over the next 40 years, ownership would change hands a dozen or more times.

1972 | Duluth real estate entrepreneur Ben Overman buys the Redstone.

1975 | The Redstone is added to the National Register of Historic Places.

1986 | Howard Klatzky purchases the Redstone and restores it for use as offices for H.T. Klatzky & Associates.

Oliver G. Traphagen
Sept. 3, 1854–Oct. 21, 1932

Duluth’s most renowned architect, Oliver G. Traphagen, was born in Tarry Town, New York. His parents moved to Wisconsin and eventually to St. Paul during his youth. 

He was not formally educated in architecture, but instead moved up from carpenter to contractor to architect through experience as an apprentice of noted architect George Wirth. 

He came from St. Paul to Duluth in 1881 and soon began designing both private residences and commercial buildings. He worked alone until 1885, when he formed a partnership with his mentor, Wirth. He went back to working alone in 1886.

In 1890, Traphagen invited Minneapolis architect Francis Fitzpatrick to partner with him in Duluth. One of the early buildings they worked on together was the Redstone. Traphagen had lived in the Merchants Hotel (which he had designed) since around 1884. He married Amelia (maiden name unknown) in 1891 and began building his home that year.

Alone, and together with Fitzpatrick, Traphagen designed a majority of Duluth’s finest buildings, many of which are still standing today. His partnership with Fitzpatrick ended in 1896, when Fitzpatrick moved to Washington, D.C. Traphagen also moved that year, to Honolulu, Hawaii. His daughter was ill and needed to live in a warmer climate. 

Traphagen continued to work as an architect in Honolulu, designing the famous Moana Beach Club, the first tourist hotel on Waikiki Beach.

In 1907, he moved to Alameda, California. He retired there around 1925, and died seven years later.



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