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March 7, 1881: “Park Point” secedes from Duluth, becomes a township

On this day in Duluth in 1881, the community living south of the ship canal became a township separate from the Village of Duluth and named itself Park Point. Before Duluth became a city in 1870 and the canal was cut the following year, the community had been the township of Middleton. Middleton, along with Rice’s Point, Portland, Fremont, Endion, and Upper Duluth and Lower Duluth came together to form the city of Duluth in 1870. When the canal was cut, Minnesota Point south of the canal became an island. People and goods had to ferry across the canal most of the year, and a rickety temporary suspension bridge (shown below) was set up when the shipping season closed—and taken down again when it opened. For years the people of Middleton—known locally as “Park Point,” asked the city to build a permanent bridge over the canal. When Duluth lost its city charter in 1877, Middleton became part of the Village of Duluth. As Duluth struggled to get to its financial feet, a canal bridge was not high on its list of priorities. By February 1881, those living south of the canal had had enough. In February Senator John D. Howard introduced a bill in the state legislature to incorporate Park Point as an independent village (the bill had to be resubmitted because of a typo which would have created the village of “Bark Point”). When Duluth regained its city charter in 1887, it asked Park Point and other surrounding villages and townships to join it to create a larger city. Park Point refused. They held out for two years until Duluth finally promised to build a permanent bridge over the canal. It took another 15 years to keep that promise.

The first bridge to span the Duluth Ship Canal, sketched in 1872 by Charles Johnson. (Image: Duluth Public Library)