March 4, 1877: City of Duluth reorganized as the “District of Duluth”

Andreas M. Miller, first President of the Village of Duluth, 1877. (Images: SMDC.)

On this day in Duluth in 1877, the city of Duluth stopped being a city and was reorganized as the “District of Duluth” by the State Legislature. Duluth Township (just a small portion of today’s Duluth centered on the base of Minnesota Point) was established in the winter of 1855–56; it first became a village in May, 1857. On March 5, 1870, the village and other surrounding villages and townships joined to form the first City of Duluth. After the Financial Panic of 1873, Duluth went broke, and by 1877 had let its city charter expire. Once this happened, Duluth had to apply with the state to become a district, which would allow it to return to village status, which it did on October 22, 1877. Most of the surrounding townships that had joined to become Duluth then once again became individual townships. Ten years later, March 2, 1887, Duluth had paid off its debts to the State of Minnesota and new legislation—introduced by Duluth Senator Alanzo J. Whiteman—passed. Duluth was once again a city. For the next nine years Duluth convinced all those former townships—as well as some new communities that had been established in the 1880s, such as Lakeside and West Duluth—to come together as one community. To do so, it had to make some promises. First, it had to promise the citizens of Park Point (the former township of Middleton) that it would build a permanent bridge over the Duluth Ship Canal. Next, it had to promise the residents of Lakeside that it would not allow the manufacture nor sale of alcohol within its borders. It did so with the passing of a state law.

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