Early this morning, a blower fan in the 1940s-era heating system at Duluth’s NorShor Theatre malfunctioned and sparked a fire that caused an estimated $15,000 worth of damage before being exterminated by firefighters. The fire was contained to a single room, and fortunately there were no injuries.
The fire is a setback in ongoing efforts to renovate the historic theater—which has hosted performers from Charlie Chaplin to Charlie Parr, but has been shuttered for the past several years—into a performing arts center. In November, Kaitlin Lokowich reported on this effort; Duluth mayor Don Ness spoke of his enthusiasm for the project. “There’s just going to be a tremendous amount of pride,” said Ness, “that our community was able to save our last remaining historic theater.”
There’s still no firm timetable for renovations of the theater, which is now owned by the City of Duluth, but the effort got a boost last month when Governor Mark Dayton proposed $7 million of state funding; that would constitute just under a third of the project’s proposed costs. The fact that today’s fire was caused by an outdated heating system, tweeted Ness staffer Daniel Fanning, “confirms need to renovate/modernize system & historic building.”