DULUTH – A pair of Tiffany windows will stay in the city after officials voted to affirm the artifacts' local landmark status Monday night.
Duluth's City Council unanimously approved a measure effectively ruling out the sale of the windows as a means of addressing a $25.4 million budget gap caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"They're just too valuable, and there's too much history," Council Vice President Renee Van Nett said.
Duluth has already laid off employees, required staff to take unpaid days off and delayed projects. Another unanimous council vote Monday directed city staff to start looking at land Duluth could sell to help offset its shortfall.
"Any sales like this are done to help preserve and employ our city employees ... folks whose departments have been severely impacted by our budget situation," Council President Gary Anderson said.
The council would have to vote to approve any final sales of assets. Council members expressed wariness of exchanging city property for what Council Member Zack Filipovich called "a one-time cash influx."
"If an asset sale has my vote, it will need to demonstrate a long-term benefit to the city as a whole," he said.
Duluth's Tiffany windows were crafted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Anne Weston, a local artist commissioned by the world-renowned jewelry company. Weston's great-great-grandson, Brian Frey, said he felt strongly that the windows should remain in a public building where residents can see the works their city inspired.
"These aren't just any stained glass windows, they really blow you away," said Frey, who lives in Montana. He added that Weston defied the stereotypes of her time, entering the workforce long before it was the norm for women.
One of the windows was commissioned by the St. Louis County Women's Auxiliary for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. It shows a Native American woman named Minnehaha, a character in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem "The Song of Hiawatha."
The other, commissioned by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1904, commemorates the European arrival in the area of Duluth by French explorer Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut.
Both windows for decades graced the old Carnegie Library on W. 2nd Street. They now reside in the entryway of the St. Louis County Depot.
Duluth tried to sell the windows in 2008, when the Great Recession cut a $6.5 million hole in the city's budget. Officials backed down after public outcry and upon learning that a sale would likely earn less than the $3 million initially expected.
The city's Heritage Preservation Commission led a charge in 2010 to designate the windows as local landmarks, a status that requires the owner to keep them in a convenient Duluth location that can be freely accessed by the public.
Before the Monday evening meeting, the Historic Preservation Commission voted 5-0 urging council members to affirm the status of the windows, "preserving them for future generations to learn from and enjoy."