March 22, 1887: First meeting of the new City of Duluth’s city council

A Philadelphia street paved with wooden block. Superior Street was paved with cedar blocks beginning in 1887. (Image: COS)

On this day in Duluth in 1887, the new City of Duluth’s first city councilors—18 aldermen representing 9 different geographic wards—met for the first time. Duluth, which first became a city in 1870, lost its charter in 1877 and became a village until 1887. Duluth had no city hall in 1887, so the council met in rooms the city rented in the Hosmer Block at 15–18 East Superior Street. At the meetings, according to historian Dwight Woodbridge, “A board of public works was constituted consisting of Major Guy Wells, president; B. F. Edwards, clerk; Philip Westaway, street commissioner; and James Fowler, city engineer. A petition for a franchise to the Duluth and Highland Cable Railroad Company was presented and granted, to run from Superior Street up the hill to Fifteenth Street. There was a great protest made by the Duluth Street Railway Company, but the two companies finally came together. The wheat from the burned elevators on the outside dock [click here for an explanation] was declared to be a nuisance on account of the horrible odor arising from it, and a contract was let to John Inglis for $940 to dispose of it. Mr. Inglis had it loaded in dump scows and towed it out into the lake.” Over the next few months, the city council took care of other unfinished business that had gone neglected while Duluth pulled itself out of debt, including fixing Superior Street. According to Woodbridge, “The condition of Superior Street was now something terrible. Horses were mired right in the business section of the city, while the citizens squabbled over the condition of the pavement. Finally it was agreed to put in cedar block pavement with a concrete foundation.” That’s right, the downtown portion of Superior Street was once paved with wooden block. (Actually, the use of wood blocks to pave streets began in London in the 1830s and was used throughout the U.S. during the second half of the 19th Century.) In April, “Judge O. P. Sterns, as trustee, delivered up the last of the old city bonds and coupons and the old disgrace to the city was finally wiped out.” That old disgrace was Duluth running out of money. Why? Find out here.

One Response to March 22, 1887: First meeting of the new City of Duluth’s city council

  1. It’s interesting to learn that Superior Street was paved with wooden blocks. While I’m not old enough to remember that, I can remember wooden blocks being used down by the amusement center in Park Point, where people walked, back in the late 1940s or early 1950s, I believe. I wonder if some advantages wooden blocks had over cobblestone or bricks or just plain concrete was that it would be easier on horses, probably quieter under shod hoofs, and, in the short run, more economical to install, even if it might not be as permanent as other materials. I do remember brick paving on 23rd Avenue West between Second and Third Streets. Thanks for the trip down “Memory Lane!”

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