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The Pumphouse is one of the most iconic historical homes you will find on the Duluth Superior shore.  Originally built in 1890, the property served as a steamed-powered water supply station for the Lakeside area for 7 years.  During this period an important issue for residents was the distribution system of city water because typhoid fever was running rampant and killing many people.  The residents questioned the purity of city water over concerns of contaminated water supply carrying the bacterial disease.


The house was designed by John Wangenstein, an architect who worked on many projects throughout Duluth, and was abandoned in 1897 when a new pump house was built.  After being reportedly vacant for decades, Miss Elizabeth Congdon bought the Pumphouse from a private seller and hired local architect Harold Starin to transform the raw industrial building into a french-style guest cottage for renters.  The gallery below features the original renovation blueprints by Harold Starin.

An old article written by Trudy Carlson in the Historical Perspective relayed the fond memories of Caroline Marshall, who lived in the house in the late 30's after the Congdon renovation.  Ms. Marshall remembered an early freeze when the ice froze like glass and all she had to do was open a window and skate onto the lake.  Another renter, Ms. Hawthorne, was mentioned in the article recalling a storm in which the wind pushed through the windows and her and her husband rushed to cover their piano with blankets while water surged out the front door.  In 1947, Mr. and Mrs. van Evera moved into Pumphouse and were on record reminiscing about the moment an 11 pound boulder crashed through a window into the room where their newborn baby was sleeping in a bassinet.  Thankfully, the baby just got a little wet.  Everyone who has set foot in the Pumphouse has been in awe of the power of Lake Superior and the beauty of nature surrounding the property.


Since Elizabeth Congdon renovated the cottage for several renters, the home has transferred ownership five times.  Each new owner has made additional improvements to the property.  These changes have mainly been cosmetic with each owner making updates to their taste.  More notably, the Campell family who owned the property from 1978-1998, made extensive structural repairs to the storm-damaged foundation, built a seawall, and removed the front chimney.  This was major because it added the entire rear terrace area and provided the home with additional protection from the Lake Superior gail force wind storms.  The proximity to the lake required the installation of storm shutters and special shock-resistant plate glass to all windows facing the lake to prevent rocks from shattering windows during heavy storms.  Prior to these numerous projects to prevent storm damage to the home, Mrs. Campell said in the Historical Perspective article that on stormy nights she used to feel like she lived inside a washing machine.

This home has been featured as part of the St. Louis County Historical Society and was a featured home in the 33rd annual Duluth Preservation Alliance Historic Properties Tour.  In 2020, the home's second story was renovated adding four dormers to the roof and remodeling the main floor utility room to a sitting room.  Fast forward to today, the Pumphouse is a VRBO vacation rental.  Many guests have mentioned the unique experience of feeling like they are staying on a luxury ship.  The historical architecture of the Pumphouse is still very evident today as many renovations simply amplified the beauty of the cottage.     

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