John Dwan Office Building

Also known as: 3M/Dwan Building, The Sandpaper Museum
201 Waterfront Dr., Two Harbors, Minnesota

Law Office of John Dwan, Now Serving as a Museum


North Face

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in August 2013



Street View 


John Dwan was an attorney in Two Harbors. In 1902, in this office, Dwan drew up papers to incorporate a new venture, called Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. The initial investors included Henry S. Bryan, Dr. J. Daniel Budd, Herman Cable, William McGonagle and John Dwan himself.

The firm began mining a mineral they wished to use as an abrasive, called corundum, to manufacture grinding wheels. Corundum was, apparently, abundant on the north shore of Lake Superior. The firm acquired acreage and mineral rights, and built a manufacturing facility.

As it turns out, the material in the mine was actually anorthosite, a poor choice to make abrasives or anything else. Coupled with manufacturing issues, the fledging company almost collapsed.

John Dwan tried to sell stock in order to raise capitol, but it was derided as not being worth a "two-bit shot of whiskey."

In 1905, under the new leadership of Edgar Ober and Lucius Ordway, the company moved to Duluth and began manufacturing sandpaper - just in time to supply the new automobile industry with body finishing products.

Today, 3M (as it began to become known) grew into a 30 billion dollar corporation employing 88,000 people worldwide.

Next time you purchase a roll of Scotch® brand tape or a package of Post-it® Notes, remember that it all started right here, in this modest office building, in 1902.

Oh, by the way, if you had one of those stock certificates today, that back then wasn't worth a "two-bit shot of whiskey," it would be worth just shy of two million dollars.

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on June 11, 1992
Reference number
NR name
Dwan, John, Office Building
Architectural style
Late 19th and 20th Century Revival: Classical Revival
Areas of significance
Industry; Commerce
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event
Property type
Historic functions
Professional; Business
Current functions
Museum; Single dwelling
Period of significance
Significant year
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 1
Non-contributing buildings: 1

Update Log 

  • March 31, 2021: New Street View added by Bill Eichelberger
  • April 13, 2014: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated Status and Added Photos