St Croix Jewish Neighborhood
Moses Montefiori Synagogue

The St. Croix neighborhood was home for many of our early Jewish ancestors around 1900. The neighborhood was located on Park Point north of the Aerial Bridge along what was then St. Croix Avenue. The area had evolved over the decades. It was a neighborhood to various ethnic enclaves including Finnish and Jewish communities. It served people in transit in its many boarding houses. In 1885 a group of Jews living in the vicinity of St. Croix Avenue organized an Orthodox congregation. They bought a small house on St. Croix and converted it into a synagogue. They held services there for a few years. The Cleveland school was located at St. Croix and Buchanan Street. The area became a red light district followed by removal of housing in the 1940s and 1950s followed by light industrial businesses taking root.

Many of the Jewish residents of the St. Croix neighborhood have been identified from the 1900 Duluth census data. A listing, compiled by Karen Alpert Entous, is attached in a pdf document. There was also a Orthodox synagogue named Moses Monefiori in the St. Croix area. More information about the synagogue is presented further down this page.

St. Croix Avenue was parallel to South Lake Avenue between downtown Duluth and the Aerial Bridge. The name was changed to South First Avenue East in 1912. It's current name is Canal Park Drive. (To illustrate this, Gustav Kenner's address was 422 St. Croix Avenue in 1900 and 422 S 1st Avenue East in 1928.)

The St Croix area "was a neighborhood to various ethnic enclaves including Finnish and Jewish communities. It served people in transit in its many boarding houses. In 1885 a group of Jews living in the vicinity of St. Croix Avenue organized an Orthodox congregation. They bought a small house on St. Croix, converted it into a synagogue, and held services there for a few years," according to Minnesota Reflections.

For a better understanding of the St. Croix Avenue neighborhood, two maps found on Minnesota Reflections are shown below. The maps from 1886 and from 1902 have been cropped to highlight the St. Croix area.

1886 map - hi res - - full map .................................................................. 1902 map - hi res - - full map                             

Additional maps of the St. Croix area: 1921 map - - present-day map

Early photographs

Early photographs of the St. Croix neighborhood are shown below. Click here for a set of pictures taken in the St Croix neighborhood in 2011 by Karen Alpert Entous.

St. Croix Avenue in Duluth - 1946-47

St. Croix Avenue in Duluth - - hi res

1875 photo cropped to the St. Croix area - - hi res - - full photo (view of Lake Avenue and Minnesota Point from about Second Street)

Aerial Bridge in about 1915 (looking toward Lake Superior) - - hi res - - additional view

1898 St. Croix Fire

Abraham Abbe Akir Coran was one of the Jews who lived in the St. Croix Neighborhood. He was staying with his sister Jennie Coran Kenner and her husband Gustav Kenner (Yenta Zelda and Elyakim Getzel). The Kenner family along with many others, helped newcomers settle into Duluth. The family was just recovering from a massive fire that had destroyed much of their St. Croix neighborhood in 1898. At least 50 other Jewish families were affected by the fire. A pdf document with more information about the Corans, the Kenners and the St Croix fire was compiled by Abbe Akir Coran's great granddaughter Karen Alpert Entous. A May 9, 1898 news article about the fire is also available in an attached pdf file.

The 1898 St. Croix fire left many poor families destitute and as many as 50 ramshackle buildings burned. Earlier in the day a joint meeting of Jewish congregations was held at Turner Hall. The purpose was to pray for peace and a victory in the war against Spain. Several Jewish businessmen had left their stores to participate. As a result, many did not have the time to get back to their homes or stores and save valuable merchandise or goods. A second news article from the same May 9, 1898 newspaper is attached (click here). A summary is as follows:

1898-5-9 - - Pray For Our Arms.
Hebrew Americans Beseech That Victory May Attend.
Orthodox Jewish Congregations of the City Join in a Union Meeting at Turner Hall, addressed by Dr. Frey and Mayor Truelsen. Dr. Frey spoke of the outrages by the Spanish people in the past. “In this country the downtrodden people of all nations find a refuge and protection. The Spanish war was not for the purpose of enlarging the territory of the United States, or its revenues, but was a war for humanity."

Present at the meeting were W. M. Abrahamson, I. Abrahamson, Mayor Truelsen, Rabbi Sigmund Frey, I. L. Cook, Judge McGindley, E. Orecofsky, Rev. Mr. Abromnovsky, I. Shapiro, S. Kassmir. Speakers were Mayor Truelsen, Judge McGindley, I. L. Cook, Rabbi Dr. Frey, E. Orecofsky, I. Abrahamson..

A news article entitled "Now to the Relief" was published the next day. A summary is shown below. Click here to see the full article.

1898-5-10 - - Now To The Relief.
Aid Must Be Provided For Sunday's Fire Sufferers.
Hebrew Citizens In the First Banks of Those Contributing.
Fire (Lake and St. Croix) More Destitution Dealing Than Any In State's History Except Hinkley Forest Conflagration.
Supt. Robel of Bethel Busy With Relief.

Temple Emanuel congregation was called together yesterday by President Freimuth and the calamity that had befallen the Hebrew people in the burned district was considered. Ways and means were discussed, and it was decided to issue a call for subscriptions. Mr. Freimuth was chairman of the meeting. B. J. Cook was elected secretary, and I. Abrahamson, treasurer. The organization will continue while there I relief work to perform. The following subscriptions were acknowledged: I. Abrahamson, S. Rachlin I. J. Cook, Robert Buchman, M. Odelman, S. Karon, Bloom Brothers, J. Frankle, Mr. Siberman, J. Fox, Moses S. Cook, S. I. Levin, J. D. Siegel, L. Polinsky, J. Hammel & Co., I. Freimuth, R. Krojanker, H. Bloom, Ladies’ Aid society, B. J. Cook, H. Levine, M. Shnnovsky, Frank Pupkin, James Polinsky, Mr. Sagrotsky, Rev. Sulizer, M. Feldman, E. E. Orekovsky, A. Sogrotzky, Mr. Mikiler, G. Orekovsky, A. Orekovsky, Mr. Schwartz, Olstein & Co., J. Foslovsky, J. Liberman, Joe Orekovsky, I. Liberman, W. Goldstein, E. Sattler.

A news article entitled "Frame the Proper Material - For Building on the East Side of St. Croix Avenue" was published the next week about rebuilding the St. Croix area. A summary is shown below. Click here to see the full article.

1898-5-19 - - Frame the Proper Material
The mayor said yesterday that he believes that removing the fire limits on the east side of St. Croix avenue is the proper thing to do. He said that the buildings could not be built there safely. The mayor said that in a northeast storm, the cribs would not hold a brick building. The only way brick buildings could be built firmly would be to build a breakwater and this would cost thousands of dollars.

ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE AVENUE, HOWEVER, THE MAJOR THOUGHT THAT BRICK BUILDINGS SHOULD BE BUILT. He said that he thought brick buildings could be erected quite cheaply and that owning to the high insurance rates on wooden buildings it would be more profitable to the owners to build them.

Moses Montefiori Synagogue

Regarding the Orthodox congregation in the St. Croix neighborhood, according to the 1897 Duluth Directory, the synagogue and school was named Moses Montefiori and it was located on the southwest corner of St. Croix Ave and Buchanan. Rabbi Hyman Appleman was the shochet mentioned in the Memoirs of Hattie Goldish who brought the Torah from the old country.

A cropped portion of the directory page is shown here.

full page

A January 1895 Duluth news article says that "Articles of Incorporation of the Hebrew Synagogue of Montifiori of Duluth were filed yesterday with the register of deeds. The incorporators and trustees are J. Polinsky, Solomon Karon, M. Zalk, I. Karon, I. Polinsky, A. J. Klachko, Sap Karon, J. Rachlleu and J. Kaner."

A January 1896 news article about Duluth churches mentioned two Hebrew congregations in Duluth. One of those was the Congregaton of Moses at 105 First Avenue East with the Rev Hyman Appleman, Rabbi. This was perhaps an earlier location for the synagogue on St. Croix Avenue. The other was the Congregation Tifereth Israel at 825 Fourth Avenue East with Rev. Abraham Fine, Rabbi.

A February 1896 news article discusses the first annual ball of the Judth Montefiori society. Names of the ladies of the society that were mentioned were Masdames S. I. Levin, D. Van Baalen, W. M. Abrahamson, I. Abrahamson and I. Summerfield.

According to The American Jewish Year Book - 5660 (1899-1900), Moses Montefiore Synagogue and School was located on the southwest corner of St. Croix Ave and Buchanan St and the Rabbi was Samuel Ssitzer (1869-1934). Click here to see the information about the Duluth congregations from the Year Book. Rabbi Snitzer came to Moses Montefiore in 1899. Click here to get more info about him, his family and getting his credentials from Russia.

An article about the Jewish history of Duluth, written by Walter Eldot, includes informaiton about the Hebrew Congregation of Moses Montefiore. The article, written for the 1985 Reunion Issue of the Jewish Fellowship News, indicates that the congregation was incorporated in 1888 and that it held services in a wooden building on East Third Street, next to the future site of Adas Israel (1900). Click here to see the paragraph.

According to a paragraph in a Duluth Jewish history article published in the 1996 Jubilee Issue of the Jewish Fellowship News, a group of Jews living in the vacinity of St. Croix Avenue also organized the Adas Israel congregation. Click here to see the paragraph.

A large group of students at the Moses Montefiore Hebrew School is pictured in this 1916 image. The Hebrew School was formally organized in 1905 and incorporated in 1908. The driving force behind the school was Mrs. Ida Cook, a Lithuanian immigrant. The school later became the Duluth Talmud Torah. (My father, Bert Garon, born in 1907, is probably in the picture.)

Click here or on the image to see the full picture in hi res.

Moses Montefiore was one of many temples and synagogue that existed in Duluth over the years. A list of these with links to further infromation is avaialble on this site: click here.

Additional Information of Interest

St. Croix Avenue was described by a Scottish 85 year old resident as being a tiny village in 1864, heavily covered with bushes and gravel patch lots. Lauchlin McLean established his residence at 306 St. Croix Ave in 1869 at a cost of approximately $80. The small hamlet did not provide enough work for him to support his family so he had to go into Canada and worked for the Canadian Pacific railway. Eventually he secured a span of horses and engaged in freighting over the ranges. Also he found work in the contracting business and made the first grade on Lake Avenue that created a road up to downtown.

St. Croix Avenue was a rough neighborhood with homeless people wandering the streets and prostitution. There were many saloons in the area and quarrels broke out that led to brawls and stabbings. Young Jewish men were assaulted in the street. The leaders of the Jewish community went to the Mayor of the city and spoke up asking for protection.

Disease such as tuberculosis was difficult to control. Women in the community asked for better hygiene in the schools. Wood sidewalks and mud filled streets always needed attention. Pavement was proposed in 1907.

In a span of 40 years, (1864-1909) the small hamlet of Duluth rapidly grew to a population of nearly 100,000.

The Duluth City Directories of the time provide insight into the Jews of Duluth who lived in the St. Croix area. The following information was collected from the Directories by Karen Alpert Entous:

1891 - - Simon Karon, (Mark & Karon), 362 St. Croix Ave.
1891 - - Samuel Kaner, junk, res 364 St. Croix Ave.
1895 - - Abraham Karon, 364 St. Croix Ave.
1895 - - Gustav Kenner, 328 St. Croix ave., fish peddler
1895 - - Samuel Kenner, 328 St. Croix, peddler
1885 - - Elijah Kenner, 328 St. Croix, clerk for father Gustav Kenner.
1900 - - Kaner, 328 St. Croix Ave.
1900 - - Abraham, Elijah, Gustav, and Henry Kenner, 422 St. Croix Ave.
1913 - - Jacob Lieberman, 422 S 1st Ave East (formerly 422 St. Croix Ave)

In 1909, the Duluth News Tribune published an article on the St Croix neighborhood which was entitled A Mind's Eye Glimpse of What Could Be Done with Property East of St. Croix Ave. The article included a picture and text of what could be done to upgrade and beautify the area. The article is attached here as a pdf document. Much of what had been proposed has come true in modern times. (See the present day map.)

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