Erected in 1912-13 with natural ice, the Duluth Curling and Skating Club was formerly located at 1330 London Road and 13th Ave. East in Duluth, MN and was an outwardly palace of a building with seating for only 2,000 when ice hockey was played on the chilly ice of the Curling Club. Many a fans remember the Curling Club's very low dasher boards, where if they were not paying attention in the first row, could have taken a stick across their shins with no fencing to keep the game-play on the ice, thus bringing about excitement for the spectator. In the mid 1960's taller dasher boards were installed. In 1910 the Duluth Club purchased 5 acres between 13th-14th Avenues on London Road at the price of $33,000 for a future club to be erected. In 1912 construction was underway on the Club which at the time was the largest ever tackled and carried out in the U.S. for ice recreation. The building was completed in 1913 at the total cost of $90,000. Stock was sold to its members with additional funding provided by Captain Joseph Sellwood and G.G. Hartley. Hockey was played in the buildings second level while the Curling Club of Duluth- that continues in operation today- took place on the arenas ground level that housed 12 sheets of curling ice, which at the time was the most under one roof anywhere in the U.S. In 1953, and artificial ice plant was installed in the club which benefited not only the curlers but hockey enthusiasts as well. The now departed building served as the home rink to the old Duluth Hornets, Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (1946-1966) and several local Duluth high school hockey teams prior to the completion of the DECC ice arena, that opened on November 19, 1966. Author John Gilbert described the interior of the club as follows:
"If your dad had been into curling, you could watch the curious form of those guys sliding the huge stones down the icy lanes, while other guys- friends and foes- swept like crazy with brooms up ahead. As a youngster, I was always amazed that no matter how much they swept, their still must be a lot of dust and dirt on that ice because they always swept with such frantic urgency. but the real treat was slipping out of the lobby and climbing the huge spiraling staircase to get upstairs to the hockey rink. Upstairs there was a huge but cozy lobby, where the heat coming off the radiators mingled with the scent of hot coffee to establish a steamy but comfortable atmosphere. Step through the swinging doors, through, and the crisp chill of sub-freezing air slapped your face. Invigorating, but never too cold. Well, maybe it was too cold, after you sat there for a while. So most people brought blankets. The rows of wood benches were stacked steeply, surrounding the rink on three sides. Some chicken-wire fencing protected the ends, but nothing along the sides. A players getting checked over the side boards would find himself looking close-up, shin-height at the fans in the first row. The ice sheet itself was an enormous expanse. Unless of course, you had been in any arena up on the Range, where every town had an arena with a bigger ice sheet. But modern Duluth grassroots hockey was at its most youthful."
One year after it's inaugural season in the WCHA of 1965-1966 UMD played its final game in the arena on February 18, 1966 where the Bulldogs fell 8-3 to the University of Michigan. A gathering of just over 2,000 spectators witness the finale before moving into the new Duluth Auditorium arena (later renamed DECC). Some years later- after local grassroots efforts to save the 84 year old Arena- the Duluth Curling Club sadly burned down on Sunday June 3, 1984 after sitting vacant for eight years. The fire, believed to have been set, began about 2 a.m. in the landmark. The smoke ravaged building was later demolished just before work on the I-35 extension began by MN DOT contracted company; Nels Nelson and Sons Contracting. The MN Department bought the property in November of 1984 for $461,000 from Duluth Curling Club Inc., for interstate 35 right of way. Demolition on the property began on January 1, 1985. Numerous people felt the rink prior to the fire should have been converted into a Duluth history museum for future Duluthians to enjoy - but this ultimately failed following the blaze and subsequent demolition.
Demolition began 1-19-1985
The Curling Club with its contoured entryway, was criticized by everyone for its tiny rink, its frigid temperatures and its small but jammed-in crowds who were literally within arm's reach of the players was declared an "eyesore" by local citizens which was used as a shelter by transients and plagued by vandalism since it was closed. Maybe nobody who ever froze a toe in the old place complained- but numerous people swallowed hard in the loss of the vintage building that provided a foundation for the wealthy Duluth hockey tradition, a rink today that remains only in stories, and photos of this once stately arena. Today at the corners of London Road and 13th Ave East- the former location of the Club- lies Leif Erikson Park (formerly called Lake Shore Park) and rose memorial garden that also features a full size replica of Leif Erickson's wooden viking ship as well. The Clubs main entrance was located somewhere near the parking lot within Leif Erikson Park. One thing the park doesn't have is a placard describing the hockey and curling history that once took place at this location within the Club. Across the street from the Park is the aging 1915 built Duluth Armory whose aging bricks and cracked windows still stand as a testament to the old neighborhood which once was that included this 1912-13 built Curling Club.
Special thanks to current Duluth Curling Club members for information/photos on the old Curling Club. Special thanks to long-time Duluth collector Dale Johnson for images he captured of Duluth Curling Club smoldering fire for placement on VMH.