Cotton Mansion gets new life as boutique hotel and venue – Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — Congdon Park’s historic Cotton Mansion recently underwent a complete renovation under new ownership, transforming the former bed and breakfast into a boutique hotel and venue.

On June 1,

Heirloom Property Management

purchased the 11,700-square-foot, three-story mansion and 1,700-square-foot carriage house on a half-acre for approximately $1,425,000. Heirloom is a Duluth-based property management and construction firm. The company also manages

four boutique hotels

, along with a handful of

long-

and

short-

term vacation rentals within a 30-mile radius of Duluth.

“I’ve always loved history and love restoring old places, so being able to do something like this has been fun,” said Heirloom President Mike Schraepfer, who is also serving his second four-year term as president on the city of Duluth’s Planning Commission.

He added, “We have a couple other mansions in the neighborhood. We also have completed residential projects in neighborhoods throughout East and West hillsides, from Gary to Lakeside. We have renovated over 30 condemned foreclosures, and have done a few hundred thorough renovations on homes that were unlivable. We’re currently doing Brewery Creek Terrace on Fourth Street, across from the co-op. Sometimes we get to work on something that is more fancy like this, but typically it’s more run-of-the mill stuff.”

Snow blankets the Cotton Mansion on East First Street in Duluth on Tuesday.

Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The grandiose concrete structure framed with I-beam steel at the northeast corner of First Street and 23rd Avenue East features an array of custom-crafted details. On the exterior, it is faced in yellow brick trimmed with buff-colored sandstone.

“There is no wood in the structure. It’s all steel and concrete. The only wood in the building is for aesthetics,” Schraepfer said. “There was an ad in paper when it was built that called it the fireproof house.”

Guests take a grand staircase up to their rooms at the Cotton Mansion

Guests take a grand staircase up to their rooms at the Cotton Mansion in Duluth.

Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Upon entering the palatial home of the Cotton family, the four-story grand staircase topped with a large stained-glass atrium dome emulates a scene from the movies. Further exploration reveals luxurious 15th Century Italian marble, hand-carved stone, exotic wood, stunning mosaics, 125-year-old tapestry and hand-carved plaster frieze ceilings within its expansive rooms.

It was home to the late Joseph Bell Cotton, who served as a corporate attorney for U.S. Steel Corp. from 1901-1908, before becoming independent counsel for John D. Rockefeller until the ‘robber baron’s’ death in 1937.

Cotton was known for helping Rockefeller take away the mining and railroad empire that the Merritt family had built in Northeastern Minnesota.

Guests staying in the second floor suites look out to a stunning view before they walk down a grand staircase

Guests staying in the second floor suites look out to a stunning view before they walk down a grand staircase to spend time in the common space in the Cotton Mansion in Duluth.

Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The Princeton Union described him in its Dec. 31, 1903 edition as: “one of the brainiest young Republicans in the State. He is also an enthusiastic admirer of President Roosevelt.” Cotton was chosen as delegate at the Chicago national convention to second the nomination of President Roosevelt.

Cotton was born on a farm near Albion, Noble County, Indiana, on Jan. 6, 1865. He first came to Duluth in 1888 after being admitted to the bar. In 1900, he married Selina “Louise” Hubel and had three children, Josephine, Mary and John Cotton.

The Dining Room of the Cotton Mansion is decorated for the holidays

The dining room of the Cotton Mansion is decorated for the holidays during a tour on Tuesday.

Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The family’s Northern Italian Renaissance Revival mansion originally designed by Kees & Cobourn of Minneapolis, was built in 1906 and finished about two years later. Schraepfer estimated the cost for construction at that time was about $90,000; equivalent in purchasing power to about $2,980,120 today, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Consumer Price Index inflation calculator.

“This was a starter home for them in their 20s. They only lived here for six years, then it was their summer home when they moved to Park Ave. in New York,” Schraepfer said. “It was to beat the heat because it was cool. There is no air conditioning, but since it’s completely concrete it doesn’t get hot.”

When Cotton died in 1940, the family sold the home to George Tweed.

Louise later died in New York in 1972. Her family sent a large painting of her, which now lives above the black marble fireplace in the common library.

The Library at the Cotton Mansion is another shared space that all of the guests may use during their stay

The Library at the Cotton Mansion is another shared space that all of the guests may use during their stay. It features a painting of a young Selina Cotton, center, the wife of Joseph Cotton.

Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Tweed donated the mansion to the University of Minnesota Duluth as Tweed Hall. The property housed UMD’s Art Department until 1960 when it became a private home.

“It was a run-down, multi-family apartment kind of building. It had been that into the ’90s,” Schraephfer said. “The previous owners did all the work in the ’90s, but things need refreshing every generation.”

Its previous owners, Ken and Kimberly Aparicio, bought the property in January of 1998 for $250,000, saving the neglected mansion from possible demolition at the time. Under the Aparicios’ ownership, it underwent a major restoration of the main level and served as a bed and breakfast since 2000.

The Living Room at the Cotton Mansion is a shared space that all of the guests may use during their stay

The living room at the Cotton Mansion is a shared space that all of the guests may use during their stay.

Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“They wanted to make sure it was sold to the right person that would take care of it,” Schraepfer said. “It was built by people that are long gone, and will logically keep lasting until we’re long gone. The only way that happens, though, is if someone takes care of it along the way and sets it up to succeed for the next generation. As you dig into the history of Duluth, there is an awful lot of stuff that is long gone now … so the ones you can preserve I think is cool.”

Over the past six months, Heirloom’s construction crews have been working on renovations. An expanded parking lot was added, and over $10,000 was invested to remove overgrown bushes and a fallen tree. Decorated with real hardwood and leather furniture throughout, Heirloom aimed for a tasteful elegance with a historical feel. The third floor was remodeled from its previous residential use to resemble an original billiards room complete with a bar and pool table.

“Ballrooms and billiards were common on the third floor back in the day. It’s where guests could go to a play, or have people over to gather and socialize,” Schraepfer said.

Mike Schraepfer, president of Heirloom Property Management, talks about the Billiard Suite during a tour of the Cotton Mansion

Mike Schraepfer, president of Heirloom Property Management, talks about the Billiard Suite during a tour of the Cotton Mansion on East First Street in Duluth on Tuesday.

Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

This New Year’s Eve on Dec. 31, the boutique hotel will host

The Cotton Mansion Black and White Soirèe.

This will be a ticketed formal event available for the 21+ public to attend with proceeds going to

CHUM Duluth

. Tickets are $50 and will include hors d’oeuvres catered by Lake Ave Restaurant, a balloon drop and champagne toast at midnight, live music by the Bobby Purdy Jazz Trio with vocal guest Maija Purdy of Laura Velvet, a premium cash bar, a photo booth and more.

“Our intention moving forward is to host a few parties of a similar size throughout the year, including The Cotton Ball which would pay homage to the Cotton family who built the house as well as the era in which Duluth was known for its high society parties and their attendees. In addition to the few parties throughout the year we are hosting small weddings, elopements, rehearsal dinners, retirement parties, birthday parties, weekly harvest table dinners, etc. This house is too beautiful not to open it for events and with the added bonus of upscale on-site lodging it is a no-brainer,” said event specialist Kirsten Mason.

The Terrace Suite is ready for guests during a tour of the Cotton Mansion

The Terrace Suite is ready for guests during a tour of the Cotton Mansion on East First Street in Duluth on Tuesday.

Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The entire mansion is available for rent with 11 rooms and two apartments, a total of 13 beds. The honeymoon suite includes a private terrace overlooking First Street. Each standard room also offers modern amenities, a private bathroom, and all guests have access to common areas with fresh coffee and pastries each morning.

Over the summer, Mason said every weekend was booked with an overall occupancy rate of 78%. Booking costs for standard rooms range from $100 a night in the winter months to $200 a night during the peak summer season.

The Mary & Josephine Suite, named after the daughters of Selina and Joseph Cotton, is ready for guests during a tour of the Cotton Mansion

The Mary & Josephine Suite, named after the daughters of Selina and Joseph Cotton, is ready for guests during a tour of the Cotton Mansion on East First Street in Duluth on Tuesday.

Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Katheleen Knopf

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