April 21, 1910: A portion of Superior Street dubbed the “White Way” illuminated for the first time

Tower Avenue, Superior’s “Great White Way” c. 1910. (Image: Zenith City Press)

On this day in Duluth in 1910, electric lamps on Superior Street, from First Avenue East to Fourth Avenue East, “blazoned forth illumination.” It was only a portion of Duluth’s “White Way,” as illuminated streets were dubbed across the country; the name was reference to New York’s Broadway, a.k.a “The Great White Way.” The plan was to extend the White Way District as far as 7th Avenue East and it was hoped the district “would be enlarged to all of Superior Street, both east and west, before the summer is over.” The Duluth News Tribune reported that there were “five standards on each side of the street, and 10 in each block. To every cluster there are five lights. In all 1,500 lights.” Those lights, the paper explained, were maintained by the people who owned the property on which the poles stood, and were responsible for keeping them on “until midnight.” That same summer Iron Range communities including Chisholm, Eveleth, Virginia, Nashwauk, and Aurora installed lighting systems along their main thoroughfares. Superior also turned on the lights that summer, with Tower Avenue as the city’s first “White Way.” West Duluth’s White Way, Central Avenue, was not illuminated until 1913. In 1915, the Hillside Commercial Club first discussed illuminating East Fourth Street. Not everyone welcomed the lights. In June, 1911, the News Tribune reported that in Superior—whose White Way had become nearly as famous as New York’s and was said to have inspired more towns to illuminate their streets as well—property owners and tenants of Tower Avenue did not want to pay the light bill. The city was actually considering dismantling the whole system. Read more about Superior’s history here.

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