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This landmark was once a government fish hatchery and then a scientific limnology laboratory.

UMD Limnology Lab Receives Preservation Award

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Undated photo of the Lester River Fish Hatchery

The Lester River Fish Hatchery/Limnology Lab owned by the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) received recognition from Duluth Preservation Alliance on May 13, 2013. The structure received an award for restoration work that uncovered boarded-up windows, rebuilt others, installed a new shingle roof, replaced wood gutters with reclaimed cedar, and added a period color scheme to the exterior of the structure. The facilities management crew conducted the work, as time allowed, over about 24 months. Kevin Claus, construction supervisor and lead staff member for the project, accepted the award on behalf of UMD. He said his team enjoyed working on the project. "This was such a challenging project," Claus said. "It was a privilege to bring back the original beauty of this building that greets everyone as they enter Duluth from the North Shore."

In addition to the maintenance work, the crew replaced missing trim and installed spires at the gable ends to match the 1880s building. They also rebuilt the front and rear entrances. Then the crew went above and beyond in restoring the decorative cresting on the roof ridge. The cresting was fabricated in the UMD facilities management shop with recycled old growth redwood. Finally, the crew replaced the weather vane mast. The mast was adorned with a fish, a replica of the original. "This project is yet another example of the skill and craftsmanship of our facilities management construction crews," said John Rashid, associate director of facilities management at UMD.

Visitors will find the landscape northeast of the building exactly like it appeared for more than 100 years. Often mentioned in tour guides for the Duluth area and the scenic North Shore, the fish hatchery building is located at the beginning of an 11-mile stretch of undeveloped of shoreline. "This structure is of enormous historical importance to Duluth," said Mike Seymour, vice chancellor for finance and operations at UMD. "Keeping it maintained is our responsibility. It is also important that we join other businesses and individuals in preserving the rich architectural heritage of Duluth."

The building, with its distinctive gingerbread-style shingles, decorative gables, roof brackets, eyebrow windows, and historic 36-over-2 pane windows, was built in the late 1880s at 6008 London Road. It sits at the mouth of the Lester River and was originally constructed to raise native Lake Superior fish. It was the first hatchery in the state, and included a main laboratory and outside bins where fish were raised. The complex originally included the hatchery, boat house, supervisor’s and superintendent’s homes and pump house. The land was given to the government by the Lakeside Land Company, and a dam was built on the Lester River. A flume carried water from the Lester River to the fish hatchery which then known as the U.S. Fisheries Station.

The fish hatchery closed in 1946 and became the property of the University of Minnesota Duluth, where for decades limnology research was conducted. The two homes were sold as private residences. The structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The hatchery was temporarily home to the Great Lakes Aquarium before the present building was constructed near the harbor.

The first image in the photo show is from a 1910 postcard.

UMD's Those Who Can, Duluth

Story by Cheryl Reitan, May 2013

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UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,

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