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Area bed and breakfasts invite the public to see their holiday style

Photo by Don Trueman/ The Olcott House, located at 2316 E. First Street, is one of the seven historic bed and breakfast inns participating in a holiday tour to be held Sunday, Dec. 11 from 1 to 5 p.m. Each home will have holiday decorations both inside and out. Tickets are $25 when purchased in advance, and all proceeds will go to Second Harvest Food Bank. See page B-1 for more information.1 / 8
Naomi Yaeger Angie and Tim Allen, owners of the A.G. Thomson House, stand by a large window near the staircase.2 / 8
Photo by Naomi Yaeger Ken and Kimberly Aparicio, owners of the Cotton Mansion, sit in its living room with newspaper articles about the mansion and its former owner, Joseph B. Cotton.3 / 8
Submitted photo This is a 1908 photograph of the crew who did the finish work in the Cotton Mansion. The Aparicios said they believe the descendants of these workers probably still live in Duluth.4 / 8
Naomi Yaeger Nutcrackers are just some of the Christmas ornaments that decorate the shelves and window ledges at the A. G. Thomson House.5 / 8
Naomi Yaeger Ken Aparicio, co-owner of the Cotton Mansion, holds a historic photo of the home's library, while standing in the same room pictured in the photo.6 / 8
Photo by Don Trueman / Three of the five Christmas trees inside the A.G. Thomson House.7 / 8
Photo by Don Trueman / The living room the Cotton Mansion decorated for Christmas.8 / 8

Around the turn of the century, Duluth was home to more millionaires per capita than any other American city. Many people used that wealth to build stately, beautiful homes.

A Duluth News Tribune article dated Dec. 2, 1906, noted that new homes between 21st Avenue East and 26th Avenue East and bounded by East First Street and East Fifth Street were being built at a cost of up to $20,000.

Now, the economy has changed, but the homes are still here, and by purchasing a ticket for a tour of selected homes as part of a fundraiser for Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank, you can help others across the Northland who are on a tight food budget.

Many Duluthians have only driven by and never seen the inside of these homes, some of which are now bed and breakfast inns that will be decorated for Christmas during the Historic Bed and Breakfast Inn Holiday Tour to be held Sunday, Dec. 11 from 1 to 5 p.m.

Inns participating in the tour include: A.G. Thomson House, 2617 E. Third St. circa 1909; The Ellery House, 28 S. 21st Ave. E. circa 1890; Mathew S. Burrows House, 1632 E. First St. circa 1890; Solglimt - Jewel on the Water, 828 Lake Ave. S. circa 1910; The Olcott House, 2316 E. First St. circa 1904; The Cotton Mansion, 2309 E. First St. circa 1906; and The Firelight Inn on Oregon Creek 2211 E. Third St. circa 1910

"Each inn will be dressed to the nines," said Angie Allen, co-owner of the A.G. Thomson House.

"Most of our clientele is from the cities," added her husband and co-owner, Tim Allen. "Sometime people who live here seem surprised that we are here."

"Second Harvest seemed to be a good fit," Angie said of the bed and breakfast's choice of a charity to support. "We feed people," she said, referring the breakfasts and snacks served to overnight guests. "It's the holiday season," Tim added.

Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank is not a food shelf, but rather a food bank and the sole distributor of surplus food products to more than 200 charitable food programs, including soup kitchens, food shelves and shelters. As a food bank, it provides food to front-line charitable agencies that offer meals to the hungry. In addition, the food bank provides food to more than 1,000 people each month with direct-service programming.

"There is a lot of food," said Angie Allen of a different offering -- treats she'll give to people on the tour. "We have people (for whom) this is their lunch and dinner."

In addition to Christmas sweets, the Allens plan to feature wraps, quiches and other savories. Beverages planned include mulled wine, spiced punch and coffee.

As this Budgeteer reporter toured the A.G. Thompson House, the Allens had put up five Christmas trees, and more than 100 St. Nick figurines adored shelves and buffets.

"Some of them are gifts, some we've accumulated over the years," said Tim Allen, a retired Air Force major. "We even have to pull furniture out of the house to decorate." During the year, the Allens rent a storage shed for all the Christmas decorations.

Kimberly Aparicio was preparing to hang wreaths near the big double doors outside the Cotton Mansion, located at 2309 E. First Street, when the Budgeteer dropped by last week. She and her husband Ken Aparicio purchased the 16,000-square foot Italian Renaissance mansion in 1998. They enjoy talking about the history of the house, which was built in 1908 and was home to Joseph B. Cotton, an attorney for U.S. Steel and for John D. Rockefeller until 1935. He also was active in national politics.

The Aparicios said they know people will enjoy touring the mansion. When the couple decided to purchase the house, they said the Historic Preservation Alliance had been helpful to them, so a few years ago when the Alliance asked them to participate in a tour of historic homes, they were happy to oblige, thinking maybe 100 to 150 people would stop by. They were surprised when more than 900 visited.

The Cotton Mansion is so full of ornate woodcarvings and plaster carvings that frequently the Aparcios say they are surprised by details they've never noticed. In fact, the day the Budgeteer visited, Ken pointed out a face in the ornate plaster ceiling of the foyer that Kim had not noticed previously.

Tickets to view all seven inns are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Advance tickets are available by phoning the A.G. Thomson House at 218-341-0140.


WHAT: Historic Bed and Breakfast Inns of Duluth Holiday Tour

WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 11 from 1 to 5 p.m.

WHERE: Seven locations in Duluth (A.G. Thomson house is 2617 E. Third St. and will have maps available to the other locations.)

WHY: To let the public enjoy the insides of the mansions and to raise funds for Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank.

HOW: Phone 218-341-0140 for tickets. To view homes in advance visit

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at