Someone returned a room key for a hotel that was torn down 50 years ago


A key from an old hotel that was torn down about 50 years ago was found at a Duluth Post Office this week.

The key – a real key, not the electric key cards we see in most hotels today – belonged to the Spalding Hotel, the Duluth News Tribune says.


Back when hotels still used metal keys, there was usually a tag that read "drop in mailbox – postage guaranteed." In case the person staying at the hotel left with the key, the hotel could get it back that way.

The key would then make its way to the main post office in whatever city the hotel was in, and the hotel could go to the post office and pay the required postage before getting the key back.

And that's what apparently happened with the key to room 319, the Duluth News Tribune says.

Peter Nowacki, of the United States Postal Service, told BringMeTheNews someone probably found the key in a drawer, and followed the directions by dropping it in the mail.

There's no way to find out who put the key in the mail or where they did it, Norwacki said, but he has a "strong suspicion" that it probably happened recently.

Getting an old hotel key in the mail isn't unheard of. The Postal Service doesn't keep records on how often things like this happen, but Nowacki called it a "rare, quirky event that happens occasionally."

Norwacki isn't sure what will happen to the key.

What happened to the Spalding Hotel?

The eight-story Spalding Hotel, which was built in 1889 on the corner of 5th Avenue West and Superior Street, was considered one of the city's finest hotels before it was torn down in the 1960s, according to the Kathryn A. Martin Library.

Throughout its existence, the hotel played host to many famous people, including presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman, the Duluth News Tribune says.

For more on the hotel – and photos of what it looked like – check out these stories gathered by Zenith City.

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