Blue Collar Blues at Missabe Junction

Urban Renewal Decimates Slabtown

MissabeJct25 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
By the time this picture was snapped on August 18, 1966, the Soo Line’s former freight depot at 2902 West Superior Street had been converted into a Hamm’s Beer distribution building. This side of the building was for wagon and truck loading. Several railroad tracks served the other side of the structure. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)
MissabeJct26 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
The homes and small businesses of Slabtown were generally simple in nature. This 1962 picture was taken standing on Helm Street looking west from 27th Avenue West. The tall building at the end of the street is the Duluth Brewing and Malting plant. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)
MissabeJct27 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
Street signs eventually marked each intersection within Slabtown but to begin with each corner sidewalk had the street names cast in place. This one along Helm Street was right in front of the Duluth Malt & Beverage Brewery. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)
MissabeJct28 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
While most of the homes in Slabtown were small in size and built of very plain materials, one of them was considerably more lavish. Located just across the street from the brewery, this mansion afforded its owner what had to be the shortest commute to work in all of Duluth. This was the home of Reiner Hoch, founder of Duluth Brewing & Malting. It featured several fireplaces and was one of the first homes to be piped with a coal-gas cooking stove and light fixtures. The Hoch mansion was easily the finest dwelling in this little neighborhood. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)
MissabeJct29 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
Looking northeast from the 27th Avenue West overpass we can see the southeastern part of Slabtown along what was known as “Railroad Alley.” This street fronted the Missabe Junction rail yard as was very narrow, barely half the width of the other east-west streets. It was actually called Railroad Street but the alley moniker was the popular way to describe this part of town. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)
MissabeJct30 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
Narrow as it may have been, Railroad Street had its own sidewalk signs too. Back in the days of passenger train travel the city noted in transportation reports the great difficulty that riders had even finding the Missabe Junction depot, let alone navigating the narrow street, only to find little parking available to them at the depot. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)

Urban Renewal Decimates Slabtown

11 Responses to Blue Collar Blues at Missabe Junction

  1. Hi Leslie –
    Thanks so much for your comments. Glad you liked my story in pictures. Stay tuned for more on Missabe Junction in October. Thank care. Cheers!

  2. I was born in 1943 and raised on West Michigan St. Our address was 2726 or 2727 W. Michigan St. I remember walking to Simon’s store to pick up things for my mother. Like a lot of families that lived there, they had an account. My Dad worked at U.S. Steel in the open heart furnace. We moved east to 2nd st. in 1953. I remember driving down there in 1964 after getting out of the Navy and it was all gone. The Post Office sits where we used to live. It was a close knit community and everyone knew each other unlike neighborhoods of today. Thanks for the trip down nostalgia lane, Jeff.

  3. Hi Jim – How cool of you to share that tidbit. Interesting to hear that Ringling wasn’t the only circus that came to town. Thanks and cheers!

  4. My father (b. 1894) grew up in Slabtown and spoke of it often, with me not listening nearly as attentively as I should have before he died in 1971. I can share an unimportant and forgotten historical anecdote from my own experience. After the buildings were razed and before the post office and freeway encroached, about 1964, the Clyde Beatty Circus set up its canvas big top there, just south of where the post office was later built. Clyde himself faced the lions there.

  5. Hi David – Thanks for taking the time to get involved and share your story as well. It’s a treat for me to be able to share these photographs, especially when I hear from people such as yourself who have another perspective to add to the story. I’m still learning about these places from our collective past. Every little bit we can share about these parts of old Duluth helps to make the texture of each story all that much richer for everyone to enjoy. Take care. Cheers!

  6. thanks for the trip down memory lane. i was a police boy at bryant and guided kids down to slabtown. i also watched from the 2nd floor of the clyde iron office and these houses were demolished. interesting to watch at the time, today im really glad for the memories. thanks so much for what you;ve done here.

  7. Michael and Kathleen – Thanks for the nice feedback and question. I haven’t researched the issue of the displaced families or how they were compensated by the program. I couldn’t even begin to guess about that but imagine that information about the details of this episode in Duluth’s storied history is right there in the Duluth Public Library records (in case anyone runs across it and wants to share). Take care. Cheers!

  8. Hi Bob – I’m delighted to hear that this part of the story brought back great memories for you. I have quite a few more pictures of homes and businesses in this area; perhaps 40-50 more in total. Have a few more of the DeSoto building too. Who knows? Maybe I have a shot of your grand parents home too. Parts 3 and 4 will show more by the tracks and how the NP and DT were rearranged a couple of times to make way for other additions to the area. It’s little wonder why most folks don’t recognized this area at all because it changed several times in just a few short years. Thanks for reading. Always happy to hear from you. Regards to the family. Cheers!

  9. Can’t progress be sad sometimes. I wonder where all the displaced folks moved to. Was there adequate affordable housing avaikable to them?

  10. great issue jeff. my grand parents lived on Huron st. by the desoto building. I used to walk back to the garage and wait for the Soo line passenger train to pass and also watch that little 0-6-0 switch the building..and also walk down to missabe junction and watch the action there when I was very young… great issue and so many memories….that have come back…thanks soo very much. bob

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