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Wanna Buy This Gorgeous, 122-Year-Old Lakeside Duluth Cottage? Too Bad!

Setting aside issues around property taxes and land use, a billionaire family's Park Point shopping spree offers insight into a vast, class-rooted values chasm.

1:52 PM CST on January 16, 2024

MLS|

See that big lake?

We tricked you. It no longer exists.

Had 2931 Lake Ave. S. in Duluth come across our radar when it hit the market last April, we might've featured it in the popular "Wanna Buy?" series.

There's a lot to like about the property. The four-bedroom, two-bathroom, 2,114-square-foot cottage was built in 1902, back when Park Point residents would gather driftwood from the world's largest freshwater sandbar to heat their homes. It boasted many of the antique features that century-home freaks crave: oceans of original hardwood flooring, exposed beams, and a wood-burning fireplace. Its sprawling back yard, which abuts Lake Superior? A rarefied selling point.

That last item is likely what attracted Kathy Cargill. A married-in heiress to the stupifiyingly wealthy Minnetonka-based agribusiness family, she made headlines in the Duluth News Tribune last month for hoovering up at least seven Park Point addresses via an LLC. Neighbor Brooks Anderson expressed concern that Park Point is transforming into a “part-time playground for rich folks,” while fellow neighbor Carol McDonnell noted there’s “a lot of curiosity” and “a lot of worry” about what Cargill will do with her map-blotting collection of freshly leveled lots.

In a follow-up report issued last Friday, the Star Tribune found that seven homes recently purchased by the LLC have already been razed, two more are slated for demolition, and three additional properties may soon fall under its control. Most of the single-family homes were snatched up for well above their estimated values, spurring concern that residents will soon be priced out of a uniquely beautiful, ecologically precarious, and historically relevant seven-mile stretch of land. "It's hard when somebody can price everybody out of the market," St. Louis County Commissioner Annie Harala said at meeting with Park Pointers last fall.

The most evocative and perhaps illuminating moments of this mysterious land-grab have come courtesy of Cargill herself. Not much is known about the woman who married James Cargill II, heir to the world's largest (and some say "evil") privately held company. The online clues pretty much start and stop with this YouTube profile about her collection of "drivable art"—aka four six-figure McLaren sports cars. Cargill wouldn’t tell DNT reporter Jimmy Lovrien about her Park Point plans, though she did threaten to sue his employer for writing about her wheeling/dealing. (Lovrien tells us no legal action has been taken against the newspaper.)

“The homes that we bought were pieces of crap,” the billionaire told the reporter. “I couldn’t imagine living in any of them.”

Those are the "unfortunate" and "hurt[ful]" words alluded to by a seller in the Strib piece, and they shouldn't be glossed over. One would think a blue-blood heiress would possess the self-awareness to not publicly drip disdain all over their neighborhood. Yet Cargill's words remind us that the billionaire class, lacking the imagination to even conceive of what constitutes as "not crap" to 99% of the population, is not like us. (Unlike stars in Us Weekly.) Its members operate in a parallel reality, one where investing in lavish doomsday bunkers makes more sense than using their de facto infinite resources to... I don't know... snuff out myriad real-world crises. It's a rapacious mindset borne out of increasing isolation from the social contract that, under ideal circumstances, makes this thing called humanity hum right along.

Which brings us back to 2931 Lake Ave. S. With an estimated market value of $575,000 (Cargill paid $600K), the lovely ex-house is an imperfect metaphor for class politics. But its demise in service of one elite family's extracurricular whims? That's worth remembering, and worth talking about. Especially as fleets of McLarens (among other things!) accelerate Duluth's reputation as a "climate-proof" refuge—for those who can afford it.

Enjoy this ghostly photo tour courtesy of the MLS. We reached out to the listing agent for additional intel, but didn't hear back.

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