September 21, 1922: The opening of West Duluth’s “White Way”

On this day in Duluth in 1922, West Duluth’s “White Way” opened to great fanfare. A “white way” was a term used to describe streets illuminated by streetlights, taken from New York City’s Broadway Avenue, one of the first illuminated streets in the nation and nicknamed the “Great White Way.” (Superior Street in downtown Duluth was the Zenith City’s first white way; Superior, Wisconsin’s Tower Avenue was considered that city’s white way.) Thirty thousand people celebrated the West Duluth event, which marked the illumination of West Duluth’s “business triangle,” an area bordered by Central Avenue, Grand Avenue, and Ramsey Street. Part of the celebration was the crowning of  “Carnival Queen,” who was chosen by a contest described as an “exciting race” that put West Duluth “on edge.” More than 400,000 votes were cast for the fourteen nominees, and the title went to Miss Grace Seymour. Miss Seymour threw the switch to light the White Way, and a parade followed with local high school and VFW bands playing. The White Way was the brainchild of L. A. Barnes of the West Duluth Commercial Club. Businessmen from Central Avenue and Ramsey Street face off in a tug-of-war, but the results were under dispute and all bets called off.

Grand Avenue between 57th and 58th Avenues West photographed in 1924, two years after the street was first illuminated with electric lights to become as West Duluth’s “Great White Way.” Note the electric lamppost on the street corner. (Image: University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections)

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