Blue Collar Blues at Missabe Junction

Urban Renewal Decimates Slabtown

MissabeJct37 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
Then those homes came a-tumblin’ down! This one falls at the corner of 26th Avenue West and Huron Street. The date is October 1, 1962, and the time is 10:30 a.m. Bulldozers were used to tip some homes over onto their sides. Then the structures were gradually chopped into smaller pieces. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)
MissabeJct38 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
Wrecking cranes with claw buckets were used to demolish many homes. Starting at the top they bit their way through a home. This work came well after most of the trees in the area had been cut down and hauled away. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)
MissabeJct39 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
Ultimately this was the fate of most of the Slabtown homes. The bulldozers and wrecking cranes loaded every board and brick into the back end of a dump truck and the entire neighborhood was driven to a dump site. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)
MissabeJct40 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
This view is looking south along 27th Avenue West from Michigan Street. The viaduct shows in the background. The train track in the foreground is the Soo Line main track into Duluth. The Griswold crossing flashers protected the public from approaching trains. If the red flashing lights and bell weren’t enough to do the job, a yellow reflective stop sign rotated 90 degrees to add an extra measure of warning to drivers contemplating crossing in front of an approaching train. Homes shown are intact but overgrown on September 23, 1962. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)
MissabeJct41 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
Here’s the Simon’s store at the foot of the 27th Avenue West viaduct on September 23, 1962. Everything behind it is still intact as well. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)
MissabeJct42 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
By March of 1964 nearly everything that once made up the Slabtown community was gone. All that remains here is the old viaduct, the Missabe Junction depot and a few trees. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)
MissabeJct43 © Jeff Lemke Twin Ports Rail History
With Slabtown demolition nearly complete the photographer is able to provide us with a view that wasn’t possible since the earliest days in Duluth. This is the whole of the original wooden 27th Avenue West viaduct. No longer obscured by homes and businesses, the bridge itself won’t be able to hide from demolition much longer. A new concrete bridge replaced it. (Image: C.F. Sager, Twin Ports Rail History Collection.)


Next month: The saga of Missabe Junction continues as we look at the transformation of the junction’s rail lines as the interstate began to take shape. We’ll visit two old sites that were spared from demolition and see two new facilities that were added along the Duluth Transfer mainline.

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