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April 7, 1910, North Pier Lighthouse burns for first time

On this day in Duluth in 1910, the North Pier Lighthouse at the eastern end of the Duluth Ship Canal’s north pier burned for the first time. The Lake Carrier’s Association had been arguing for year that since the canal was only three hundred feet wide, the South Breakwater Light wasn’t sufficient for mariners to guide their craft at night or in foggy weather, even with the help of the Rear Range Light. Too far south and a ship would run into the pier; too far north and it would beach on the rocky shore. In 1909 the Lighthouse Board the entrance to the Duluth Harbor between the canal piers “one of the worst and most dangerous on the whole chain of [Great] Lakes.” The report—along with the evidence from 1905’s Mataafa Storm—bolstered the LCA’s argument and Congress appropriated $4,000 to build a lighthouse. An iron tower enclosed by steel plates, the North Pier Light stands thirty-seven feet tall, measures ten-and-a-half feet in diameter at its base, and tapers to a diameter of eight feet at the top. An octagonal cast-iron lantern holds a Fifth Order Fresnel lens made in Paris in 1881, originally illuminated by a 210-candlepower incandescent electric lamp. Its white light was later replaced with a more navigationally appropriate red light (so that, along with the South Breakwater Light’s green lamp, skippers can more easily identify the canal’s entrance). Read more about the ship canal and its lighthouses here.

Duluth’s North Pier Lighthouse. (Image: Lake Superior Maritime Collection)