Mysterious Mural

Christine Gradl Seitz, Executive and Artistic Director of the Duluth Playhouse.

The many tradespeople working on downtown Duluth’s NorShor Theatre have recognized numerous signs of the past since they began restoring the 107-year-old facility in June 2016. They haven't, however, identified a dusty, 8 x 10-foot mural they recently found that had been hidden since at least 1941.

When the 1910 Orpheum was renovated to become the NorShor Theatre, which opened in 1941, the mural remained hanging above a newly-constructed ceiling.

“Someone painted this beautiful mural on canvas, but we don’t know who or when or why. So we’re hoping the public can help solve this mystery,” said Christine Gradl Seitz, executive and artistic director of the Duluth Playhouse, which will operate the theater when it opens. “We’re going to restore and display this mural in the new NorShor as another part of the building’s preservation. If anyone knows the story behind this intriguing piece of Duluth’s history, please call the Duluth Playhouse.”

Gradl Seitz said more than 60 percent of the construction has been completed, which is on schedule.

“It’s hard to believe after several delays in getting started, but opening night at the new NorShor Theatre is only 245 days away,” added Gradl Seitz. “We’re bringing the NorShor back to life with a bang on February 1 with ‘Mamma Mia.’ People are already buying tickets to be there for the start of another 100 years of great entertainment in downtown Duluth.”

Approximately 90 percent of the renovation’s $30.5 million cost has been raised from various government and private sources, with no impact on Duluth property taxes. The remaining amount, said Gradl Seitz, is now being raised in the community.

“Certainly, that’s not an insignificant amount, but getting the final dollars from community contributions has always been part of the funding,” she said. “Many are already making generous contributions in the hope that every last detail in their theater will be perfect. We’ll be reaching out into the community for individual contributions, including the opportunity to buy a seat with their name on it in the new theater.”

The NorShor, with its classic Art Deco design, is one of the last of its kind in the country. Its restoration is being managed by Sherman Associates. The Duluth Playhouse will operate the completed facility, which will host performances by the Minnesota Ballet, Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra and other local organizations, as well as national acts.

The 650-seat theater will have activity on four floors: dressing rooms in the lower level; the theater itself and a lounge on the Superior Street level; a mezzanine and balcony, as well as classroom and training space, on the second level; and rehearsal studios and a Skywalk connection on the third floor.

The new NorShor will draw tens of thousands of people downtown on about 200 nights a year for entertainment, dining, shopping and lodging, sponsors of the restoration say.