January 28, 1893: Construction begins on Duluth’s first ore dock

On this day in Duluth in 1893, the crews of contractor R. H. Palmers set to work driving 8,000 piles into the St. Louis Bay at the foot of 33rd Avenue West, officially beginning the construction of Duluth’s first ore dock. Built for the Duluth, Missabe & Northern Railway, the wooden dock was designed to have 500 ore pockets each capable of holding 180 tons of iron ore. An estimated 13 million board feet went into its construction, and when complete it stretched 2,500 feet into the bay and stood 52.5 feet above the waterline. The Duluth News Tribune reported that the dock stood one foot taller than other ore docks because “the soft and gravel like nature of the ores of the Mesaba [sic].” At the time it was the largest ore dock ever built, but then so where the next six ore docks Duluth constructed between 1893 and 1918. Dock #4 was the largest wooden ore dock ever built, and Dock #6 is still the largest steel ore dock on the planet. Construction of Duluth actually began work on an ore dock in 1884 in anticipation of shipping iron ore from Charlemagne Tower’s mines on the newly opened Vermillion Iron Range. Unfortunately for Duluth, work was forced to stop after Tower announced he would ship his ore through Agate Bay, today’s Two Harbors. Read more about Duluth’s ore docks here and Two Harbors’ ore docks here.

Duluth’s first ore dock, built in 1893. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

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