Saturday, December 14, 2013
Frozen lakes and the Flame....
Also the subject of the Duluth waterfront came to mind recently and the buildings that once were on the shore. I recalled the Flame Restaurant that was razed in the late 90's. I looked up the history
and found quite a interesting story. Even a bit entertaining with what a supper club was in the early days:
Duluth’s Flame Restaurant — a fixture of the town for over fifty years — started as a humble one-room barbecue stand on London Road, opened by Jimmy Oreck and Alex Zurovsky during the heart of the Great Depression. A year later Zurovsky dropped his end of the bargain, leaving Oreck and his wife Ruth to run the stand, which they turned into what would be called “the Northwest’s finest Supper club.” The Art Deco-inspired Flame Building on London Road boasted large picture windows that looked out over a garden of “trees and shrubs, a waterfall, trout pool, and stuffed wild animals.” It also had the town’s first custom-made semi-circular booths, strolling musicians, a cigarette girl, and a dwarf doorman decked out in a red uniform.
Charlie Kassmit managed the Flame, and he and Oreck did their best to make the experience unique. Coffee was served by “The Sultan of the Second Cup,” a man wearing a turban and curl-toed shoes. Meat cooked slowly over a rotisserie that was enclosed with glass and the Flame was famous for its pop-overs made fresh by Ruth every day. At first it could seat just thirty patrons, but Oreck added wings and — after Prohibition was repealed — a variety of bars and lounges, including the Rooster Room, named for the Flame’s logo, a flame red cockerel.
When fire claimed the Flame in 1942, Oreck moved the restaurant to 110 West Superior Street. Meanwhile he purchased a grocery warehouse along the harbor. The three-story fire proof building originally housed the Duluth Marine Supply Company, a grocery retail firm specializing in selling foods to Lake Superior vessels. By 1936 Duluth Marine Supply had moved; the building remained a grocery warehouse until Oreck bought it and hired architect Harold St. Clair Starin to convert it into The Flame. The new Flame sat four hundred diners. Its semicircular terrazzo dance floor was framed with “inverted Roman-like columns flooded with multicolored lights.” The Flame included a glass stair tower and many windows that looked out over the harbor, including five twelve-foot windows in the dining room that created a “wall of glass.”
But Oreck wasn’t happy with the building because of compromises made due to war-related shortages. In 1955 Oreck moved the business to Superior Street, reworked the old Flame, and by 1956 was back at the Fifth Avenue building along the “seaway,” as Oreck called the waterfront. Oreck sold the Flame to a Memphis developer in 1971, and the restaurant closed in 1973. The Anchor Inn rented the building until 1982. In 1983 Micky Paulucci of Grandma’s Restaurants reopened the Flame in its Fifth Avenue location, but it closed just eighteen months later. The vacant building was demolished in 1998 to make room for the Great Lakes Aquarium