Blue Collar Blues at Missabe Junction

Urban Renewal Decimates Slabtown

MissabeJct31 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
The site of the Trolley Lunch Diner at 2602 West Michigan Street became the location where public notice was served about the West Michigan Street Redevelopment Project. This picture was snapped on June 23, 1962, at 10:45 a.m. Sweeping change for this community was just around the corner. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)
MissabeJct32 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
The map on this sign shows with crystal clarity everything that would be affected in Slabtown, even the as-yet-to-be-built I-35 highway is shown along the bottom edge of the map. The highway would eventually cover much of the original Missabe Junction yard. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)
MissabeJct33 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
The J. J. Johnson home is shown here on October 9, 1962, and is typical of Slabtown’s larger two-story frame dwellings. Many others were much smaller or just a single story. Look carefully and you’ll see the demolition stencil on the front of the building. This one has “2-14” painted on it to indicate its place in line for the wrecking ball. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)
MissabeJct34 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
Here’s the east side of the north end of 28th Avenue West on October 9, 1962. Slabtown was an organized little community with purpose. Nearly everyone who lived here worked close by. This image belies what’s in store for this community during the balance of October. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)
MissabeJct35 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
While some of the streets maintained a comfortable look right up until the end, others certainly did not. This September 23, 1962, view shows how things appeared near the corner of 29th Avenue West and Huron Street. Most homes were abandoned and the yards overgrown with weeds. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)
MissabeJct36 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
By September of 1962 so many Slabtown homes were abandoned that rat infestation became a problem. Before the demolition crews could come in to start their work, each home was baited with poison to keep wrecking crews and the general population safe from these vermin. (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

Leave a reply