Video Tour by John Saaristo
The Oliver Inn
Timeless Luxury + Modern Comforts = A Uniquely Duluth Experience
By Andrea Busche
At one time, little ol’ Duluth, Minnesota was home to more millionaires per capita than any other city in the world. The world!
That’s right: wealthy tycoons from various industries - including Chester Congdon, Jay Cooke, Andrew Carnegie, and other dignitaries - were known to do business, or even reside, right here in Duluth.
The Oliver Inn, a newly-opened boutique hotel located in Duluth’s Old City Hall, seeks to honor this rich and intriguing history, while offering plenty of modern comforts and amenities for its guests.
Together, Katrina Pierson and Rod Raymond – partners in business and life – tackled and recently completed this immense project (the space was formerly used as a restaurant, event center, and co-working space), which is located at 132 East Superior Street. The Oliver Inn opened on January 2nd, 2022 and the duo is thrilled to offer their guests a unique hospitality experience.
“We still have the original stairway,” Raymond shared. “Andrew Carnegie, Jay Cooke, and others have walked up those stairs, and big decisions were made here. We repurposed and restored the building so guests can relive those experiences in a modern-day way.”
The decision to retain the character of the original structure was both strategic and intentional. “Rod is deeply committed to preserving and sharing this history with our guests,” Pierson added.
History of the Space
The building that is now The Oliver Inn was originally designed by well-known architect Oliver Traphagen (the Inn’s namesake), and built in 1889. For years, it was a place where plenty of official and important business got done, as Duluth’s City Hall.
Today, in addition to all of that amazing architecture, the space still retains its original basement “speakeasy,” known as The Rathskeller, which came in handy during prohibition times. Today, with its dimly-lit, relaxed vibe, and interesting brick parabolic curvature, it remains a great place to grab a cocktail, beer, or glass of wine. The Rathskeller is open to both guests and the general public.
Raymond, a prolific Duluth businessman, is no stranger to tackling large projects. He is the owner of a variety of Duluth establishments, including Burrito Union, Fitger’s Brewhouse, Fitger’s Barrel Room, Fitger’s Beer Store, Endion Station Inn, Ramjet Events, and Evolve Yoga & Fitness Studio.
Pierson brings plenty of skills to the table, too. She owns Katrina Lynn Consulting, which works primarily with non-profits on organizational development, capital campaigns, and fundraising. She is also a photographer, and has produced films and worked as a creative director.
Both Pierson and Raymond both have a firm foothold in the spiritual realm, too. Pierson is a yoga and meditation teacher at Evolve (which she co-owns with Raymond, and is on-site at The Oliver Inn), and Full Circle Yoga, while Raymond is an avid yoga practitioner. Raymond is also currently working on his PhD dissertation in transpersonal psychology.
For The Oliver Inn, Pierson explained how they have delegated the work thus far. “As far as how everything came together, we had pretty distinct roles. Rod was the project manager and spent many 14-hour days this summer using his own hands alongside the construction team. I was the designer, so I spent most of my time curating the antiques and art, choosing paint colors, painting, and making lots of decisions with Rod on a daily basis.”
The Oliver Inn features a total of 13 guest rooms, including its “crown jewel,” their Grand Chamber Suite, which offers a fireplace, bar, and large living area. Each room, named for successful men and women with ties to Duluth, is well-appointed, featuring a fridge, microwave, European espresso machine, and modern TV.
The couple described the aesthetic of the Inn. “The way we designed the space, we wanted to make it feel like the home of a well-traveled friend,” Pierson said. “It’s warm, and meant to ignite curiosity.”
“If you want to have a unique experience, come to The Oliver Inn,” Raymond added. “You will leave different than when you arrived. And, our price points are equal to, or better than, regular hotels.”
The interior of the Inn features a charming combination of old and new. Beautiful vintage woodwork is blended with modern white walls, beautiful light fixtures, and walk-in showers. Many of the original bluestone and brick walls remain intact. And, a cool old vault has been repurposed as a seating area.
Style and Amenities
In regards to the finishes, Raymond and Pierson have fashioned a well-curated mix of furniture and art, blending Victorian, art deco, and eclectic themes. A unique, art deco-inspired mural, completed by artist Demetrius Crawford, provides a pop of color.
“We are trying to bring in contemporary voices while respecting and honoring the original intention of building and design,” Pierson said.
In addition to The Rathskeller in the basement, the Inn is also home to Wasabi Japanese Restaurant. Raymond’s business, Evolve Yoga and Fitness, is also on-site, so guests can participate in a workout or relax with a yoga session. And a custom-made, locally-sourced cedar sauna is a great way for guests to relax. Plenty of other great local businesses, including the historic NorShor Theater and the Zeitgeist Arts building, are also within walking distance.
The future is expected to bring great things for guests at the Oliver Inn, too. Plans include the creation of wellness retreats revolving around yoga, fitness, and a variety of outdoor adventures.
Unique Duluth Experience
One thing is for certain: The Oliver Inn is a great choice for those looking to have a uniquely Duluth, yet worldly, experience. “We love to travel around the world, absorb what we see and feel, and try to bring it back for our guests in some way,” Pierson said.
Guests at the Inn can expect a personal touch from their hosts, too. “Rod and I like to be there on Fridays to welcome our guests, and to observe their experience,” she added. “We want them to forget about their problems and just have fun.”
For more information, please visit theoliverinn.com.