The Minnesota Ballet office in our new quarters:
Wells Fargo Building
230 W. Superior St. Suite 50
Duluth, MN 55802
Building Level AB
Office Hours: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Office phone: 218-529-3742
School of the Minnesota Ballet
Student Summer Showcase
Noon July 27, 2018
Duluth Public Library Plaza
Free Public Presentation
The School of the Minnesota Ballet steps outside to present its Student Summer Showcase featuring upper-level students demonstrating ballet, jazz, tap, character (European folk dance), and musical theater dance. Students from the choreography class perform their own works-in-progress.Read More
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Historic Grain Exchange
The Board of Trade was founded more than a century ago in 1881 by nine businessmen determined to organize grain trade in the Head of the Lakes, namely to establish grain prices for a market almost exclusively dealing in cash. As the area grain market grew and trading expanded into futures, the Board looked to building a home of its own, completing it in 1885 on the site of the present Lonsdale Building. This home had already proved too small when it was destroyed by fire in 1894.
Work on the present Board of Trade Building was begun that year; the dedication of the cornerstone on June 26, 1894, was important enough that a half-holiday was declared in Duluth and seemingly the entire city turned out for the ceremonies. Designed by Traphagen and Fitzpatrick with a state-of-the-art steel frame encased in Portage red sandstone, the building opened for business in 1895. The Grain Exchange was located in the back of the second floor of the new building, topped by an impressive glass dome.
With the grain market growing, still more room was needed, so in 1907 two more floors were added to the Board of Trade Building to house the Trading Floor on the eighth floor and the viewing balconies, cafe, board room, and a branch of the Wells Fargo Bank on the ninth floor. The addition was designed by world-renowned Chicago architect Daniel Burnham.
The new quarters of the Grain Exchange were worthy of Duluth’s growing importance in the world grain trade, an importance that rose to third in this country behind only New York and Chicago. An ornately carved Italian ceiling with 64 lights overlooked the 50 by 50-foot maple floor. Six tall, arched windows flooded the Trading Floor with natural light. Eighteen telephone booths lined on wall, topped by a catwalk giving access to a huge blackboard where prices were posted.
From the viewing balconies opposite the blackboard, the public could look down on clamorous activity. From the opening gong, men shouted bids, rushed to telephone booths, smelled the grain, flung it about. Workers read ticker tapes and posted price changes. Spittoons received well-aimed shots. Cigar smoke rose the 35 feet to the ceiling, where it was cleared by vents.
In its heyday the Grain Exchange was a male world; women were allowed on the trading floor only to deliver messages. After hours, the Grain Exchange was the place to be. Some of the area’s most prestigious parties were held here. So socially important was the Exchange Club that men who had no connection with grain paid the hefty membership fee just to belong.
Sadly, by 1966 trading in Minneapolis and Chicago had taken over most of the local trading, and the Grain Exchange closed, largely gathering dust for more than 30 years. In 1997 the Minnesota Ballet, looking for larger quarters, toured the site, finding to its surprise the elegant architecture reminiscent of a European ballet salon.
The Ballet’s goal in remodeling was to preserve as much as possible of the original architecture and flavor, while creating a home for a thriving dance company and school. The trading floor retains its maple hardwood, now covered with marley, a padded flooring to provide dancers with a soft, secure surface. All eighteen telephone booths now hold a surprising number of costumes.
The windows were reworked for safety and greater insulation. The ornate ceiling and lights were refurbished, the walls painted, four of the original eight wall light fixtures returned, and the faded lettering on the blackboard repainted. Even the electric gong still works, and the old weather map now hangs in the lobby. Since 1999, the Grain Exchange has been the lively home to one of the area’s performing arts gems. For its efforts in restoring this historic site, in 2000 the Minnesota Ballet received an award from the Duluth Preservation Alliance.