March 30, 1914: The first residents of Morgan Park move into their homes

This postcard showing a scene in Morgan Park was made between 1915 and 1925. (Image: Zenith City Press)

On this day in Duluth in 1914, the first residents of Morgan Park—a “model city” (or “company town”) built by U. S. Steel to house some employees at the adjacent Minnesota Steel Plant—moved into their home. According to Arne Alanan. those first residents were “steel plant brick works superintendent John McLimans, his Canadian-born wife, Emmy, and their four daughters. They were quickly followed by several other families, including electric power supervisor Charles Sampson, his wife, Mary, and their two children; assistant timekeeper James Aird and his wife, Margaret; and [Morgan Park] police chief Albert Solomon, his wife, Ida, and their three children, two of whom also worked at the steel plant.” By May 14 between 200 and 300 people occupied 60 houses. Fifty families arrived the next month, and 100 more in October. At the end of the year nearly 600 people lived in Morgan Park—the families of foremen, supervisors, and skilled mechanics. The unskilled laborers—many of them recent immigrants—who worked at the steel plant lived in New Duluth and Gary in boarding houses and, later, barracks-like facilities built by USS. Morgan Park was named for J. P. Morgan, president of USS; Gary was named for Elbert H. Gary, Vice President of USS. Read more about the Minnesota Steel Plant and the entire history of metal fabricators in Duluth here.

16 Responses to March 30, 1914: The first residents of Morgan Park move into their homes

  1. I would not be in favor of renaming MP, Gary or any other city due to their relationship to the steel industry (Oliver Wi as well). It doesn’t make sense to use today’s sensibilities to try and correct the past. I think most people have only passing awareness of the history behind the names of these town and I would guess that few care.
    Regarding pollution, we have learned that rivers and lakes are not dumping receptacles for our byproducts, but back in the day, it was a common occurrence.

  2. Morgan Park was and is a great place to live. I find its history fascinating. I think a lot of people would be interested in Arnold Alanen’s book: “Morgan Park-Duluth, U.S. Steel, And The Forging Of A Company Town”. It thoroughly discusses the pros and cons of living in a company town. I grew up here and I live here now. I sometimes do historical walking tours of Morgan Park. I will be doing some this summer, but if anyone would like to take one this spring, you may contact me- Bob Berg. Tony, thanks for posting the picture and writing the article.

  3. grade teachers funeral her name was Mrs.ALSTADT she was 102 yrs old.She in Gary still.just wanted to share the love n pride for the great place I call home.Mrs.Nancy (Heski) Scanlon

  4. My dad worked in the open hearth steel plant till it closed his name was Mr.Martin T.Heski Jr.Thankful to my dad n all the people who worked hard n long to put a roof over our heads n food on the table.We attended Stowe school and I just attended my 3rd grade teachers funeral her name was Mrs.ALSTADT she was 102 yrs old.She taught at Stowe school and lived n raised her family in Morgan Park.I attended Morgan Park 1975.The community we have is wonderful n the memories long n rich.I am proud to be a Gary girl born n raised and living in Gary still.just wanted to share the love n pride for the great place I call home.Mrs.Nancy (Heski) Scanlon

  5. My dad worked at the steel plant till it closed in the open hearth.we lived in Gary and I am proud of my dad n all the others who worked hard n long to provide us a good home n to put food on the table.our neighbors are life long friends and Im proud to call myself a Gary girl born n raised.My dad was Mr.Martin T. Heski Jr.I graduated from Morgan Park n went to Stowe school.I am back to living in Gary once a Gary girl always a Gary girl.I just attended my 3rd grade teachers funeral her name was Mrs. ALSTADT 102 YES OLD and she lived in Morgan Park n taught school out in Gary.The stories of a good community are endless for me n the memories long.Just wanred to share my love to the home town I love.Thankyou Mrs Nancy (Heski) Scanlon.

  6. what an interesting discussion has been blown wide open in these digital and physical spaces. Is Morgan to blame for events both past and present. Does renaming a community breathe new life into it? Can banners touting a communities industrial past and “bright” future really create an atmosphere of change? whats next for Morgan Park? Google fiber?

  7. Thank you, Victoria, for adding your voice to this discussion. If there is one thing I’ve learned while studying Duluth’s history, it’s that we are all living proof that nothing lasts. In the meantime, we’ll keep mining the past to celebrate how we got to the present, and perhaps as a byproduct uncover lessons that can help propel us into the future.

  8. My husband and I lived in Morgan Park for many years. We are fascinated and proud of it’s very interesting history. We both think it would be an absurd waste of time and resources to rename the MP and Gary neighborhoods. USS may be gone, but the houses and memories are still there. Things change! People die. Companies go out of business every day. That’s life! Renaming places because of these changes would make map-making a nightmare, lol! THANK YOU for the article!

  9. Kristine, thanks for sharing your memories. History is full of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The USS plant provided jobs for decades, which was good. For the first decade or so (perhaps more) a subsection of its employees weren’t allowed the same advantages as other employees, and that was bad. And the manufacturing of steel left the site polluted, which is ugly. One thing history is not is simple, and together Morgan Park, Gary, New Duluth, and the Steel Plant make for a fascinating, complex story that cannot be erased. Changing any one of those names would not change any part of the story.

  10. I am a relative of one of the men brought to work in the steel plant…Lsst name was Cavinaugh My family goes all
    The wY back to the very beginning of MP and he was moved here by the steel plant for a job. He raised his family here…my great grandmother, Evelyn Stewart (one of the daughters) also raised her family in MP… In fact in her older years she lived in that exact town home in the picture. My grandmother maryjane Koepke met my grandpa at MP school and would have malts at the malt shop. My grandpa Ken came back from the war and worked for years in the open hearth and they raised 5 kids in a house on 85th..where my aunt still lives! My entire family has roots here and I love hearing the many wonderful stories my uncles tell about growing up here. My grandma too, she’s almost 90 and still lives in MP…. You need to know anything about the histoy of this place call her up… She remembers it all. I’m proud to live here…I’m probably the 6th generation, and to hear someone say it needs to be renamed is rediculous. If MP
    And the steel plant was never built who knows what would have been for my family. It created jobs, homes, a community. Everyone knew everyone and it sounded like a great place to grow up. It’s changed a lot since then but the history is so rich and interesting.

  11. Bob, everyone has a right to their opinion, but we try to keep the conversation civil here on Zenith City, so please don’t discount the opinions of others by reducing their ideas through name calling. History isn’t always comfortable, and pointing out the truths of history is not “socialist drivel.” It is an examination of the facts, as is mentioning the statistics about job creation.

    Yes, a lot of jobs were created at the MN Steel Plant at Morgan Park and in the mines on the range. But also, yes, few of those employees were treated well, especially blacks and immigrants of Catholic descent, particularly between 1890-1920. USS did not even want to build a plant in Minnesota; they did it merely to avoid paying a tax on the ore they shipped out of Minnesota, not to create jobs for Duluthians. They mined the ore to make money for their investors, not to help the surrounding communities thrive. That is the uncomfortable truth of the history of mining in the U.S., and Duluth and the Iron Range were not immune to that.

  12. Wow those evil capitalists built the USA and incidentally employed a lot of people in the process. When I left Duluth in 1956 that city still has some industry and if I remember a population of about 100,000 people! What do you have today maybe 75,000 and a tourist based economy, such a let down. Please don’t feed me that socialist drivel.

  13. I can’t disagree, Peter! There was a documentary on WDSE-4 (MN Channel) last night about the Iron Range, reminding us how the iron mining companies made miners work with those who spoke another language, trying to squelch communication and union organizing (and safety; it backfired as the miners had to find a common language to survive) and even hired spies to report on union activity. In the past big mining concerns have shown they care little about a community, especially if there is ore under it—they moved Hibbing for ore, and they are currently moving Highway 53 for ore. What baffles me is why folks think Polymet will be any better than USS was when they start their copper-nickel sulfide mining. We have had so many difficult lessons from mining over the past 120 year; it’s a shame we don’t learn from them.

  14. USS is long gone from the neighborhood. Does the Gary family (or descendants?) continue to be involved in any way in the neigborhood today?

    If not, I suggest that the present residents organize themselves and rename the area for themselves, in a way that reflects their aspirations today.

    The names of long dead VPs of capitalist giant, polluting corporations, who built “barracks-like facilities” for the unskilled (read immigrant, black) laborers, may not reflect who we are today or who we want Duluth to be in the future.

    No matter how condescendingly concerned these corporations were and are for the welfare of “unskilled labor” and their families, it is all too transparent that owners and managers (including the educated and skilled laborers for which USS built Morgan Park) willingly set up and reinforced a class system which effects Duluth even today. Not to mention that USS polluted the hell out of the area. How’s that for concern and welfare?

    West and East.
    Immigrant and Owner.

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