July 17, 1908: Duluth’s first playground opens in Lincoln Park

On this day in Duluth in 1908, the first public playground established by the Duluth Playground Association was opened at Lincoln Park, and the children loved it. Two supervisors—one man and one woman—kept the youngsters under control. The playground closed for the season in September, but Mayor Roland Haven considered it an unqualified success and promised to open more the following year, but only if enough money was raised to buy the sites. The success at Lincoln Park stood in contrast to an earlier experiment. Earlier that summer, the park board announced installed swings and sand piles for children at Portland Square. Unfortunately, the surrounding neighbors complained that the children were too noisy, and the board removed the playground equipment after only three days. The News Tribune described the scene vividly: “Little ones in scores watched in mute astonishment their little merry-go-round pole come down, their swings fall before the hands of the workmen, and all the apparatus which had been a joy to them carted away on a truck. Half a dozen little girls sat on the curbing and wept.” The failure of this first experiment led playground advocates to realize that, to be successful, playgrounds would require adult supervision. Three years later, playground equipment had been installed at about a dozen Duluth parks—and the movement kept growing. Read a history of Duluth’s playgrounds and sports facilities here.

A lithographic postcard of the Lincoln Park Pavilion made between 1901 and 1915—though the photograph may have been taken in the 1890s. (Image: Zenith City Press)n