Posts by Heidi Bakk-Hansen

Lyman Park

We often address the idea of “lost neighborhoods” in this column—places at the edges of Duluth’s built-up neighborhoods, or green spaces where nothing remains but a few footpaths and a pleasant stroll for you and the dog. It is thanks to the abandonment caused by turn-of-the-century booms and busts that we have so much green…

Read More

Colbyville

Duluth is full of neighborhoods with lost or nearly-lost names. As modern Duluthians become more mobile and have less connection to the place they live in, borders blend or move, and names disappear. Last year, a local article made mention of a man who reported he lived in Woodland, near the intersection of Snively Road…

Read More

Hunters Park & the Isle of Lewis

Dig deep enough into the clannish histories of any smaller city in America and you’ll find lines of immigration that darken well-trodden paths from even smaller places all over Europe. Relatives bring relatives, childhood friends invite childhood friends, and soon enough you have neighborhoods called Little Italy or Polish Town where a handful of names…

Read More

Woodland

Duluth’s neighborhoods each have their distinct histories and personalities borne out of the developers who carved them out of the wilderness, the settlers who lived there, and the circumstances that shaped what they became. Duluth’s Woodland neighborhood was no exception, and its developers relied heavily on the Motor Line Improvement Company—and later the Duluth Street…

Read More

Lesure Lumber Mill

A walk to the end of Grassy Point today is like skipping backwards in time. Grasses grow in wetlands where Lake Superior and the St. Louis River meet, not unlike they did 200 years ago. Just over a hundred years ago, however, Grassy Point was the center of Duluth’s lumber industry, complete with chugging steam-powered…

Read More

The Slaying of Dr. J. J. Eklund

August 19, 1922, was an unusually hot and dry Saturday in Duluth. That morning Mrs. C. M. Peterson and her daughter Marie had traveled by train to Duluth from Deer River to see the well-respected allopath Dr. John J. Eklund in his office in the Long Block at 7 East Superior Street. The women sat…

Read More

Duluth’s First Murder

In the summer of 1869, Duluth was a dirty town of mud and stumps, tarpaper shacks, saloons, and treacherous plank sidewalks. The Fisheaters who’d survived the earliest bust were on their way up again, sure that this time the world would see the Zenith City’s full potential as the center of North American commerce. The…

Read More

The Last Legal Hanging in St. Louis County

Like too many tragedies, this story begins with love. A man loved a woman. The woman he loved stopped loving him back. And the woman had to die. The man was Charles Ernest Lafayette Henderson. He was thirty-four years old and a veteran of the Spanish-American War. He was born and raised in Charlotte, North…

Read More

The Palmer House Shootings

As the 1920s began, Saturday nights were for dancing, a weekly break to socialize after the grind of labor and the stress of union struggle. On October 1, 1921, sixteen-year old Anna Arvola was probably anxious to kick up her heels, so she joined her ethnic brethren at the Finnish Workers’ Hall at 314 Sixth…

Read More

The Mysterious “Howard Gnesen” of Howard-Gnesen Road.

Perhaps there should be no surprise that some people might think Howard Gnesen was a man—the hyphen between Howard and Gnesen having been mostly done away with by the shorthand of time. Unlike Jean Duluth Road—which was named for a farm, which was named for an historical error—Howard Gnesen was not named for a person…

Read More

The Mysterious “Jean Duluth” of Jean Duluth Road

Go ahead and ask Duluthians about where the name of Jean Duluth Road comes from, and they will squint their eyes and answer you after a moment’s thought… “It’s that French voyageur, right? I guess we don’t say his name the French way anymore.” Sure, Jean Duluth. Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, except now we’ve Americanized it…

Read More

The Victims of the 1920 Duluth Lynchings

If We Must Die If we must die—let it not be like hogs Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot, While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs, Making their mock at our accursed lot. If we must die—oh, let us nobly die, So that our precious blood may not be shed In vain; then…

Read More

Duluth’s 1920 Lynchings

They’re selling postcards of the hanging They’re painting the passports brown The beauty parlor is filled with sailors The circus is in town Here comes the blind commissioner They’ve got him in a trance One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker The other is in his pants And the riot squad they’re restless They…

Read More

The Drowning of Richard White

Editor’s Note: This article includes historically accurate but racist language and discusses violence against children. It was a hot July in the summer of 1934. The Midwest sweltered under a heat wave, and the ongoing nationwide manhunt for John Dillinger dominated daily headlines. On July 3, a man reported an abandoned car with Indiana plates…

Read More

False Gold Rush Uncovers Iron Ore

According to legend, in the summer of 1865, a slow-motion birch bark canoe chase played out on the rivers and in the woods near Lake Vermilion. One group was led by a geologist named Henry H. Eames, who had recently staggered into Duluth with a nail keg full of iron ore specimens and big talk…

Read More

Tale of Two Midwives

The story of the Zenith City’s birth cannot be told without including the tale of the midwives who ushered most native-born Duluthians into the world before World War I. While Duluth boasted medical doctors as early as the 1870s, and the wealthiest of its expectant citizens might call upon these physicians to attend births, the…

Read More

Duluth’s Red Scare: The Wobblies

The evening scene was straight out of a civil libertarian’s nightmares. One hundred uniformed National Guardsmen marched in perfect formation through downtown Duluth to an office at 530 West First Street and abruptly came to a halt. One of them yelled, “Left wheel!” Then, according to a Duluth News-Tribune article describing what happened, the troops…

Read More

Rumble on the St. Louis River

The boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin in the St. Louis River appears inexplicable when you gaze upon it from the Google Earth god’s eye, and where and how it meanders through the channel seems even more mysterious from the seat of a canoe or kayak. History details the political border sketching and surveying, back-and-forth court…

Read More

Gamblers, Tramps & Thieves

In 1890, mineralogist Edward J. Hoppmann and the city of Duluth alike were riding high on mining money and a real-estate investment boom. Hoppmann commissioned ever-popular architect Oliver Traphagen to build him a fine four-story brownstone office building on the site of the former Minnesota House hotel at 421 West Superior Street. He undoubtedly hoped…

Read More

The Notorious Madame Gaine

When Madam Mary Gain took the stand on November 20, 1913, the Zenith City sat riveted. After thirteen years of dramatic arrests and raids on her various “houses of ill fame,” reports of drunken debauchery, violence and flippant retorts to the authorities, the Queen of Duluth’s Underworld would finally tell all. The gallery expected salacious…

Read More

Duluth’s Opium Dens

On the morning of August 30, 1912, newsboys howled a shocking headline on Superior Street: “GIRL IN OPIUM DEN WITH NEGRO! POLICE ARREST COMELY CALUMET YOUNG WOMAN AND COMPANION AFTER BREAKING DOOR! Under Influence of Drug! Taken into Custody!” And finally, the last part of the headline, which is perhaps even more offensive to modern…

Read More

Prohibition in Duluth (1916–1933)

If you ask most people today if they’d have voted for Prohibition, they would likely answer with an incredulous, “No! Of course not!” Or, “It was a baffling paroxysm of governmental insanity pushed by religious nuts—you can’t legislate morality!” Looking back from our 21st-century perspective, Prohibition was an era of terrifying mob violence—Al Capone, the…

Read More

The Spook Priestess Swindler

Of all Duluth’s saloons in the plank-and-mud 1870s, Captain George W. Sherwood’s place was supposedly one of the most raucous. Early Duluth storyteller Jerome Cooley claims in his self-published Recollections of Early Duluth that it was a hangout for all the toughs and boat hands, where one could at any time be subject to a fight.…

Read More

Oneota Cemetery

As a nascent village, Oneota hugged the shoreline of St. Louis Bay near the mouth of Keene’s Creek, dominated by a few pioneer families whose names are oft-remembered for their contributions. This community’s first cemetery was located on the swampy bank close to today’s 45th Avenue West. On the original plat, the graveyard is shown…

Read More

Forest Hill Cemetery (est. 1890)

All three of Duluth’s Protestant cemeteries sit at the edge of town, reflecting their beginnings as a product of the Rural Cemetery Movement. Historically, graveyards were placed in town greens, surrounded by wooden fences that often were disrupted by grazing livestock. Death was an unpleasant and necessary evil, but it was still close by and…

Read More

Edward P. Alexander

Alexander Street is tiny, nothing more than an alley behind the Holiday Station off 26th Avenue East, parallel to Jefferson Street in Congdon Park. It has now basically become an entrance to the eastern portion of the Lakewalk, swallowed up by London Road development. Its namesake, Edward Porter Alexander—known as E. P. Alexander—has likewise been…

Read More

Joseph Becks

Next to the weather, there is nothing Duluthians like to complain about more than the quality and care of their roads and streets. It is probable this pastime exists in all cities, but with Duluth’s extreme winters and its springtime washouts and buckling pavements, it’s likely we have had more to complain about—historically speaking—than those…

Read More

Andrew Bergquist and Karl Hagberg

When most people think of Swedes and religion, they think of Lutherans. But in Duluth’s West End, where Swedes moved from Swede Town on Rice’s Point on up the hill as far as Piedmont Heights as their fortunes improved, another group of religious Swedes found a home. Organizing themselves in 1884, the First Swedish Baptist…

Read More

A. S. Chase

Up past Brighton Beach you’ll find a little neighborhood nestled between Highway 61 and the far eastern reaches of Superior Street, from 72nd Avenue East to Pleasant Avenue. It includes Brighton Street, just below and parallel to Highway 61, and just one other roadway: Chase Avenue, named after one of Duluth’s most influential and nearly…

Read More

Charles F. & Ethel Colman

Almost all streets in Duluth that aren’t numbers, places or trees are named for dead white men. It’s regrettable, surely. But as anyone who’s looked at a deed or plat map knows, men were the developers, the real estate buyers, and the ones who decided what the street names would be called. A great number…

Read More

The Dickerman Family

During the boom times between 1890 and 1910, the Kitchi Gammi Club set must have read the real estate transfer section of the newspaper as hotly as gossips read the society pages. Properties flew between investors, land subdivided and re-divided, streets planned one way and then the other, named and re-named. Whole neighborhoods were carved…

Read More

Herschel & Bob Fryberger

Herschel Burroughs Fryberger came to Duluth from Goodhue County, Minnesota, where his family were pioneers, arriving here to practice law in 1893. He was very successful, entering into the heat of Duluth’s heyday, working at first in partnership with Lane McGregor. His associations with Duluth’s bigwigs on the legal front put him in the usual…

Read More

Amanda & Ole O. Kolstad

Ole O. and Amanda Kolstad played prominent roles in Woodland real estate and later repurposed many of Duluth’s old mansions. Ole was born in Norway in 1878 and started his working life in Duluth in 1900 as a conductor for the Duluth Street Railway Company on the Woodland line. In 1906 he purchased property in…

Read More

Charles A. Lanigan

Looking at old maps of Duluth can sometimes give a sense of the optimism that pervaded developers’ hearts back around the turn of the 20th century. They often platted streets that were never built, and perhaps only the sharp-eyed hiker or map enthusiast may find the remnants of those grandiose plans. In the upper Riverside…

Read More

Charles G. Miller

It would be a fair assumption that, since Miller Creek crosses Miller Trunk Highway several times, the road was named for the creek and, by extension, Robert P. Miller. Not so. Miller Trunk Highway is named for Charles Goodell Miller, who arrived in Duluth in 1871, seven years after the creek’s namesake had passed. He…

Read More

George Reis

Most of the streets in Duluth’s Gary neighborhood bear names that have some relationship to the Minnesota Steel Company, the United States Steel subsidiary that created Gary and Morgan Park for the convenience of its workers. One of those is Reis Street, named for iron-and-steel magnate George Reis or one of his sons. Believe it…

Read More

Jeremiah Triggs

Some called it the end of an era. Within a few weeks in the early months of 1905, two of Duluth’s biggest boosters were dead. The more famous was Jay Cooke, the man who financed Duluth’s first boom in the late 1860s and early 1870s, who died on February 16. The other was a more…

Read More

Anna L. Zimmerly

…including Dr. Arthur S. and Charles E. Lovett Many of Duluth’s streets were platted between 1890 and 1910, most often by real estate developers who chose to name the streets after themselves or family members, and so the vast majority of the Zenith City’s roadways are labeled in honor of fairly wealthy white men. There are,…

Read More

Powel Crosley

Crosley Avenue in Lakeside sticks out as a bit of an incongruity. Unlike the rest of the streets in the neighborhood, it roughly parallels the lakeshore like Superior Street and London Road. In fact, if you view it in an aerial photographic, you can see that it fronts a neighborhood that is distinctly less developed…

Read More

Ann Colby Albright

In the first half of the twentieth century, community musical gatherings were dominated by two art forms: orchestra and choral singing. And of all the choral directors in town at the time, there was one name that shone brightest: Ann Colby Albright. Ann Colby was born in 1899 in Duluth to Charles and Laura Colby.…

Read More

Nicholas & Benjamin Decker

Duluth’s Decker Road is named for Benjamin Decker, who had a market farm and greenhouse on the road in the early part of the 20th century. The road was originally called “the Decker road”—short for “the road to Decker’s farm”—and it was built in 1915 as a connector for rural Duluth market gardeners to get…

Read More

John D. Howard

One hundred and twenty years ago, on November 14, 1893, the first of two fires burned at the Howard Mill. The flames consumed 2.5 million feet of lumber in the lumber yard, though the mill itself was saved. Then, a scant three months later, a second fire burned down the mill itself and all its…

Read More

Nehemiah Hulett

Nehemiah Hulett was one of Duluth’s earliest fortune-seeking pioneers, arriving here in 1857, when he was 34 years old and a bachelor. Originally a New Yorker, he spent a brief time in other up-and-coming Minnesota towns and ended up taking a claim near Spirit Lake where a stub of a street bearing his name still…

Read More

John C. Hunter Family

John C. Hunter, the patriarch of the Hunter clan, was born in Perthshire, Scotland, in 1830 and educated and trained for business in Glasgow. In 1852, he married his wife Catherine, who was from Oban, a scenic western port city in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. The Hunters’ early married life was marked with huge moves…

Read More

Ernest & Robert Jefferson

Given the cultural habit of towns and cities in the United States for naming their streets for the founding fathers of our nation, it wouldn’t be out of bounds to assume that Duluth’s Jefferson Street was named for Thomas Jefferson. This mistake extended as far as the editors of the Duluth Herald in 1930, an…

Read More

Freeman Keen

Keene Creek has seen its share of drama over the years. Thieves hid loot under its rocks. Moonshine-addled drunks died on its banks. Neighbors complained about nude bathers in its waters. Its rickety bridges of old were fought over in city council chambers. The creek even suffered the indignity of being used as a sewer.…

Read More

John & George Lavaque

While Lavaque Road only runs within the Duluth city limits for .06 miles, it is a distinctly Duluth thoroughfare. For a time it was a key route through rural Duluth and Proctor (formerly Proctorknott) to Hermantown. It is called County Highway 48 as it wends its way north, becomes one with Boundary Avenue during its…

Read More

Lars Lenroot

America’s favorite story about itself is that no matter how poor an immigrant might be when he or she lands on its shores, success is within reach if one works hard and takes advantages of the country’s abundant opportunities. While the Twin Ports have scores of Horatio Alger-style stories to tell, only a few those…

Read More

Hulett C. Merritt

Hulett C. Merritt, the son of Lewis J. and Eunice Merritt (and grandson of Lewis and Hepzibah Merritt), entered the family real estate and investing business (L. J. Merritt and Son) by the time he was sixteen. It is said that soon after he earned his first million by developing Texas City, Texas, in partnership…

Read More

Robert P. Miller

Duluth creeks and rivers named for people bear the names of the Zenith City’s earliest settlers—all frontiersmen who happened to settle themselves in claim shanties alongside moving water. Miller Creek is one of these, named for Robert P. Miller, who built his cabin and little farm on the land between it and Coffee Creek. Miller…

Read More

Morris Thomas

The timber industry arrived in Duluth in the 1880s and quickly became as important as the growing grain trade. We’ve all seen the old photos of nameless lumberjacks standing in front of an impossibly overloaded sleigh with logs bigger around than any tree we’ve ever seen outside of California’s redwood forests. We can imagine the…

Read More

Urs & Elizabeth Tischer Family

When you study place names, and look for their origins, a truism becomes obvious that may not have occurred to you before. When a new people come to a place and begin to name the landmarks around them, they begin with the most important land features—usually bodies of water and the places around them. Which…

Read More

Dr. S. S. Walbank

Wallbank’s Park is probably one of the smallest and least recognized of Duluth’s park facilities. In fact, unless you happen to be a geocaching hobbyist, it’s a safe bet you’ve never heard of it. But there it is, right west of Lincoln Park in the center of a group of true north-south, east-west streets in…

Read More

Townsend W. Hoopes II

In March of 1968, the United States was mired in the war in Vietnam. General William Westmoreland, commander of American forces in Vietnam, asked President Johnson for an additional 206,000 troops. Several Johnson Administration insiders led by Duluth-native Townsend Hoopes, then Under Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, convinced Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford that…

Read More

Mary McFadden

Mary McFadden was an intrepid young woman who made her way to the Zenith City to find success and fame during those heady times, only to disappear from the collective consciousness within a generation. In 1874, McFadden was born to immigrant Irish parents in New Brunswick, Canada. Within a few years, her parents became pioneers…

Read More

Hunters Park

Imagine a perfect Duluth summer evening in late July 1907. You and a friend, dressed in your best summer whites and straw hats, arrive via the Hunter’s Park Limited streetcar and alight at McGhie’s grocery store at Oxford Street. You discover, to your aesthetic delight, an avenue of torches guiding you to Hunter’s Field, just…

Read More

Frederick A. Buckingham

Buckingham Creek is not one of Duluth’s better-known waterways, but it is most recognizable as the creek flowing through Twin Ponds near Enger Tower, criss-crossed by the West End leg of the Superior Hiking Trail, and nearly disappearing into manmade culverts in the neighborhood between 11th and 12th Avenues West. The creek is named for…

Read More