Feature: Dylan synagogue for sale in Hibbing

By Christa Lawler
Duluth News Tribune

HIBBING — Item No. 8 on the official Bob Dylan Walk tour is a white building with four golden stained-glass windows and a three-color circle with the Star of David at the south peak.

What was once Agudath Achim Synagogue, at 2320 W. Second St., was the site of 13-year-old Bobby Zimmerman’s bar mitzvah. Bobby Zimmerman grew up to be Bob Dylan, and current owners Brenda Shafer-Pellinen and her husband, Eric, are hoping this bit of history piques the interest of one of Dylan’s hardcore fans, who might be interested in buying it.

“People who like Dylan, love Dylan,” Shafer-Pellinen said. “They have an unusual level of devotion to his music — more so than other musical groups or artists.”

Shafer-Pellinen said she posted it on the website Craigslist a few months ago, and that she also has reached out to Dylan devotees on websites such as expectingrain.com and dylanradio.com. The property is being shown by Perella & Associates as a possible single-family home or duplex, and the asking price is $119,000.

Even though it is the place where Dylan celebrated a religious benchmark, it hasn’t been a synagogue since the 1980s, when the congregation disbanded and the building was turned into apartments. Shafer-Pellinen and her husband bought it in 2001. They were looking to live in an old church — not necessarily one with a connection to Dylan, although Shafer-Pellinen is a fan, she said. The plan was to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast, but the Twin Cities-based couple has been unable to move north.

This address is a midway point in the almost two-mile loop of a walking tour of Dylan landmarks that was compiled by the Hibbing Public Library, and has 14 points of interest from the town were Dylan lived before jetting off to Minneapolis. It includes hot spots such as his childhood home at 2425 Seventh Ave. E. — where the garage is now decorated with a painted likeness of the cover of “Blood on the Tracks” — and Hibbing High School, where he graduated in 1959. And there are spots that have the kind of link that requires a devoted fan’s hunger for details, such as Hibbing Bowling Alley, where then-Zimmerman was on a team called the Gutter Boys, which won a teenage bowling competition.

It’s his childhood home that really draws fans, said Dawn Johnson, the secretary for the Hibbing High School library. She passes the two-story stucco home on the corner on her way home from work. At least once a week, someone is outside taking a photograph of it.

“I’ve had people pull me over on the street (to ask where it is),” Johnson said.

Tom Larson, who lives next door to the former synagogue, said he doesn’t think its Dylan connection is hyped enough. He doesn’t see many tourists stop by.

D’Aine Greene was checking out the public library’s Bob Dylan display on Friday afternoon. She had spent the previous day tracing Dylan’s history in Duluth. Greene hadn’t heard about the synagogue just a few blocks away, but wanted the address so she could stop by. She had already hit his childhood home, and Hibbing High School — where she said she was the third tourist that day.

Dylan’s Jewish upbringing is part of his music, she said.

“I think spiritual involvement is important. It’s what affected his songs. He is either rebelling against it, or celebrating it,” Greene said.

The residence maintains pieces of its history as a synagogue. There are stained-glass windows, and there are two identical kitchens just 6 feet apart, for adhering to kosher rules requiring meat- and milk-based dishes be kept separate. The main room has high ceilings, and a loft on the north and south ends.

This story ran in the October 10, 2010 edition of the Duluth News Tribune.

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