From the Archive: Bell & Eyster’s Bank

You may recognize the little building pictured below, which has stood at 3 West Superior Street since 1883 and received a restorative facelift just a few years ago. It was built as Bell & Eyster’s Bank, and while that institution has long since gone out of business, the  building remains as a reminder of the…

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Archive Dive: Casualties of Duluth’s Aerial Bridge

Duluth’s aerial bridge has been a tourist draw since the day it first opened as a transfer bridge in 1905, but few people who come to take a look at Duluth’s novel engineering marvel realize that iconic structure’s history is laced with tragic incidents, which you can read about in this week’s dive into the…

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Archive: Meet the Man Who Dreamed Up Duluth’s Remarkable Park System

In the 1870s, the melancholic William K. Rodgers left Duluth to serve as the personal secretary of his friend and mentor, president Rutherford B. Hayes. He would return to the Zenith City in 1889 after laying out his vision for the nation’s most remarkable urban park system and became the controversial first president of Duluth’s…

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From the Archive: Iron Range Ghost Towns

The fluctuating iron mining industry has left its mark on Minnesota’s Iron Range, from lakes that were once pit mines, mini-mountain ranges of pile overburden, and abandoned towns that were once filled with miner’s and their families. This week we revisit the archive to pull out a story from contributor Dan Turner about many of…

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Archive Dive: The Story of Storey Taxidermist

Duluthians who often use Sixth Avenue East to get from the hillside to Central Entrance (or vice versa) have likely taken note of the tiny building on the west side of the road between Sixth and Seventh Street marked with the sign Storey Taxidermists. It was built by the son of Thomas H. Storey, a…

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Historic Congregation’s History Bookended by Lightning Strikes

This past August 28 lightning stuck the western steeple of Duluth’s historic St. Josephat’s Polish National Church, built in 1908 at 417 N. Third Ave. E. The building was recently purchased by Hope City Church, which has been using it for the past few years. St. Josephat’s congregation still survives, having merged with Minneapolis’s Sacred…

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From the Archive: The 1892 Duluth Union Depot

As the home to the North Shore Scenic Railroad and the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, Duluth’s 1892 Union Depot sees a lot of tourist traffic throughout the summer, but we wonder: How many visitors—or Duluthians, for that matter— know the history of that remarkable building? And so we’ve selected it as this week’s selection from…

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From the Archive: Barnstorming the Aerial Bridge

Over the years several people have claimed that World War Two flying ace Dick Bong once flew his P-38 under the top span of Duluth’s famous Aerial Bridge, but did he? Likely not—there is no hard evidence that he ever did. But we do know of others who flew planes “through” the bridge—and once, a…

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Archive Dive: Congdon Park

Summer is an especially buy time for Glensheen, the historic Duluth state along Tischer Creek and the Lake Superior Shore built by Chester and Clara Congdon between 1905 and 1909. One of the often overlooked stories of Glensheen is why Chester Congdon purchased and donated land along the creek above his estate to the city…

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Archive Dive: Duluth’s Lost Lumber Mills

From the early 1880s until about 1910, the nation’s lumber industry was centered on Duluth and Superior. In the mid 1890s thirty-two lumber mills operated along both sides of the St. Louis River in the Twin Ports. But by 1920, only one mill was operating in Duluth. How did the local lumber industry get its…

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The Namesakes of LaVaque Road

Have you ever wondered who LaVaque Road is named for? Heidi Bakk-Hansen did, so she researched Duluth’s pioneering LaVaque brothers and wrote a wonderful history of their lives in early Duluth. It’s this week’s selection from the Zenith City Archive, and you can read it here.

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Duluth’s Lost Outer Harbor

In 2006 a large piece of wooden cribbing washed up at the very northwest corner of Lake Superior in Duluth. Cribbing used in the 19th century was essentially a wood frame made of heavy timber that was sunk and filled with rocks to provide a foundation for docks, canal piers, breakwaters, and other structures. The…

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The Alworth: Duluth’s Tallest Building

Built in 1910, Duluth’s Alworth Building was the tallest building in the state of Minnesota. Named for the man who financed its construction and designed by renowned Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, the Alworth  remains today the tallest building in the Zenith City. Read a history of the Alworth here.

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Archive Dive: Bear & Drunk Square Off at Hotel Duluth

This week’s dive into the archive pulled out a notorious tale of an event that took place within Duluth’s landmark Hotel Duluth. It was August 1929 when a hungry black bear entered the hotel to enjoy a quick snack, but was interrupted by a heroic but inebriated Duluthian who was determined to keep the bruin…

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From the Archive: Enger Park & Twin Ponds

If you’ve enjoyed Chambers Grove in Fond du Lac in the past few years, you may have walked the new interpretive trail takes you through what’s left of You say you’ve never heard of Duluth’s Grand Mountain? Well I bet you have—in fact, I bet most Duluthians have been there—but you likely know it better…

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From the Archive: Duluth’s Lost Brownstone Industry

If you’ve enjoyed Chambers Grove in Fond du Lac in the past few years, you may have walked the new interpretive trail takes you through what’s left of Michael and Emily Chambers’ brownstone quarry. It was one of three operating near Fond du Lac from the 1870s to about 1910, producing stone that faced building…

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From the Archive: Meet the Hunters of Hunter’s Park

John Hunter came to Duluth in 1869 to open a hardware and mercantile store and within a year found himself the Republican candidate in the new city’s first mayoral election. He and his family thrived in Duluth, and his sons went on to develop Duluth’s Hunter’s Park neighborhood. Read a history of the Hunters of…

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From the Archive: History of Duluth‘s Ship Canal

If Duluth didn’t have its Ship Canal, it wouldn’t have its iconic Aerial Bridge—and it likely wouldn’t have become a great commercial shipping center nor enjoy today’s thriving tourism industry. From it’s legend-inspiring digging in 1870, the ship canal has shaped the city, and together with the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad was the key…

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From the Archive: Lester River Fish Hatchery

The Lester River Fish hatchery—that old Victorian building at the mouth of the Lester River—has caught the eye of many a passerby over the years, but few  know its history. It was the brainchild of Dr. Robert Ormsby Sweeney, a true Minnesota pioneer and somewhat of an eccentric renaissance man who not only dreamed up…

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Archive Dive: Duluth’s park system once had its own police force

In 1890, Duluth’s Board of Park Commissioners laid down the law, passing a resolution that read in part “that the President of the Board is hereby authorized to request of the proper city authorities the appointment of two policemen to patrol…public grounds…to the strict enforcement of the police regulations of the City therein.” It essentially…

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Archive Dive: The Fur Trade at Fond du lac

This week’s dive into the archive takes us back to a time before Duluth existed, when Ojibwe dominated the Western Lake Superior region and they worked with the French, and then Americans, in the fur trade. In fact, Duluth’s Fond du Lac neighborhood was originally the site of an Ojibwe village and a post and…

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Archive Dive: George Thrana, Duluth’s master Stone Carver

This week’s dive into the Zenith City Press story archive pulls out the biography of a man who’s name you may not know but, if you love Duluth’s old Romanesque buildings, you know and likely love his work: O. George Thrana, Duluth’s master stone carver who began his career in the Zenith City while still…

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From the Archive: The inspiration for Duluth’s famed Aerial Bridge

Duluth’s unique Aerial Lift Bridge, the only one on the planet with a top span, was converted form a transfer bridge that was also unique: the only stiff-girded transfer bridge and the only ever built in North America. And just like the lift bridge, many people mistakenly believe Duluth’s transfer bridge was the first one…

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From the Archive: 1889 Duluth City Hall

Duluth’s 1889 City Hall  has been in the news lately with the announcement that part of the building will be converted to a boutique hotel. The historic building is one of the few remaining Romanesque revival buildings in Duluth designed by Oliver Traphagen, the city’s most prolific architech from 1886 to 1896. So this week…

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From the Archive: Skyline Parkway (& Seven Bridges Road)

It‘s only April and the snow is already gone. Duluthians have already taken to the great outdoors, and in this town that means hitting the parks. So this week’s dive into the archives focuses on the backbone of Duluth’s incredible park system: Skyline Parkway. Originally designed as “The Boulevard” in the late 1890s, a carriage…

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From the Archive: Saturday Evening Post Profiles Duluth

This week in 1949 the Saturday Evening Post — perhaps the nation’s most popular magazine at the time, known for its covers featuring the works of various artists, including Norman Rockwell — profiled “apple-cheeked, blue-eyed, tow-haired Duluth”in an essay written by Arthur W. Baum. Baum‘s essay paints a rather whimsical picture of Duluth, where “the…

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From The Archives: Duluth’s 19th-Century Squares

Before Duluth created its remarkable, expansive park system beginning in 1889, town “squares” were set aside as public greenspaces — but few were ever used as parks, nor had much of a public to enjoy them. So as we greet April and warmer months to come we take this week’s dive into the archive for…

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From ZCP the Archive: Beer ends attack from violent mob

This morning Zenith City Press launches a new weekly feature, “From the Zenith City Press Archives.” Every Tuesday we will feature a story that was originally published on this website or in one of our books — or both. Our first selection comes from Naturally Brewed, Naturally Better: The Historic Breweries of Duluth and Superior…

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Historic Duluth brewery founded by the son of a suffragist

[Note: This article was originally published by the Duluth News Tribune on March 17, 2021 as part of its “Northlandia” series and is adapted from the book Naturally Brewed, Naturally Better: The Historic Breweries of Duluth and Superior.]   In keeping with the celebration of Women’s History Month, March’s Northlandia explains Duluth’s connection to a…

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How the Twin Ports became the Twin Ports

[Note: This article was originally published by the Duluth News Tribune on January 6, 2021 as part of its “Northlandia” series. Readers of our ”This Day in Duluth“ column will no-doubt recall that this story was also the subject of the “This Day” story this past February 7.]   This month’s Northlandia answers a question…

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The West End and West Duluth: What’s the difference?

[Note: This article was originally published by the Duluth News Tribune on January 6, 2021 as part of its “Northlandia” series] Recently my wife lamented that, with COVID-19 precautions, she misses the cideries in West Duluth. I couldn’t help myself: “Do you mean the West End?” She replied, “What’s the difference?” Well, plenty, depending on…

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Franklin Square: Once a cemetery, now a lot for tots

[NOTE: This article originally appeared in the Duluth News Tribune on September 9, 2020] This month Ted B. of Duluth asks Northlandia, “What’s the history of the cemetery that once stood on the current Tot Lot site on Minnesota Point?” That’s a great question to dig into during the month that ends with Halloween. The…

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Park Point and Minnesota Point are not synonymous

  [NOTE: This article originally appeared in the Duluth News Tribune on September 9, 2020] This past July the Duluth News Tribune ran a story about efforts to bolster the sand beach along Minnesota Point south of the Duluth Ship Canal. The headline read “Work begins to heal Park Point’s shoreline.” Similarly, a recent story…

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How Duluth’s creeks got their names

NOTE: This was originally published as a “Northlandia’ column in the Duluth News Tribune on August 5, 2020 and was updated in January, 2021. Original posting here. Special thanks to Heidi Bakk-Hansen, who previous work for Zenith City Online tracing local place names (linked to below) has greatly informed this article.]   Cathy P. of…

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How innocuous are Duluth’s historic white-guy statues?

Note: This article was written by Zenith City Press publisher as a “Local View” for the Duluth News Tribune and was first published online on July 6, 2020, and in print on July 7, 2020.   I always enjoy reading my friend Jim Heffernan’s columns in the Duluth News Tribune, which often take me back…

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Duluth: Legendary City of the Unsalted Seas

The following story—adapted from Tony Dierckins’s Duluth: An Urban Biography (Minnesota Historical Society Press, April 2020)—was first published in the Duluth News Tribune in April, 2020, in celebration of Duluth’s 150th anniversary of first becoming a city on March 6, 1870. ___________ The legend of the digging of Duluth’s ship canal, that 100 stout men…

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Digging the Canal: Duluth’s Defining Creation Myth

The following story—adapted from Tony Dierckins’s Duluth: An Urban Biography (Minnesota Historical Society Press, April 2020)—was first published in the Duluth News Tribune in April, 2020, in celebration of Duluth’s 150th anniversary of first becoming a city on March 6, 1870. ___________ The initial digging of Duluth’s ship canal was fairly simple. The steam-powered dredging…

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1870: Duluth’s First Year as a City

The following story—adapted from Tony Dierckins’s Duluth: An Urban Biography (Minnesota Historical Society Press, April 2020)—was first published in the Duluth News Tribune in March, 2020, in celebration of Duluth’s 150th anniversary of first becoming a city on March 6, 1870. ___________ In 1870, its first year as a city, Duluth—destined to become the “Zenith…

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Joshua B. Culver: Duluth’s First Mayor and Leader of “The Ring”

The following story—adapted from Tony Dierckins’s Duluth: An Urban Biography (Minnesota Historical Society Press, April 2020)—was first published in the Duluth News Tribune in March, 2020, in celebration of Duluth’s 150th anniversary of first becoming a city on March 6, 1870. ___________ When Duluth first became a city on March 6, 1870, it stretched roughly…

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How Jay Cooke Resurrected Duluth’s “Lifeless Corpse”

The following story—adapted from Tony Dierckins’s Duluth: An Urban Biography (Minnesota Historical Society Press, April 2020)—was first published in the Duluth News Tribune in February, 2020, in celebration of Duluth’s 150th anniversary of first becoming a city on March 6, 1870. ___________ In 1869 journalist John Trowbridge wrote that “civilization is attracted to the line…

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Duluth’s First Boom—and Bust: 1856–1868

The following story—adapted from Tony Dierckins’s Duluth: An Urban Biography (Minnesota Historical Society Press, April 2020)—was first published in the Duluth News Tribune in February, 2020, in celebration of Duluth’s 150th anniversary of first becoming a city on March 6, 1870. ___________ As 1856 began perhaps no other region in the U.S. stood as poised…

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The Many Birthdays of the Zenith City

The following story—adapted from Tony Dierckins’s Duluth: An Urban Biography (Minnesota Historical Society Press, April 2020)—was first published in the Duluth News Tribune in January, 2020, in celebration of Duluth’s 150th anniversary of first becoming a city on March 6, 1870. ___________ In 1956 every man in Duluth was encouraged to grow a beard—whether or…

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How Duluth became “Duluth”

The following story—adapted from Tony Dierckins’s Duluth: An Urban Biography (Minnesota Historical Society Press, April 2020)—was first published in the Duluth News Tribune in January, 2020, in celebration of Duluth’s 150th anniversary of first becoming a city on March 6, 1870. ___________ By the time the Zenith City first became a city in March, 1870,…

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How Duluth handled the 1918 flu epidemic

[Published March 16, 2020] As Duluth and the rest of the world deals with the corona virus pandemic—and here at Zenith City Press I prepare to cancel or reschedule upcoming events related to Duluth: An Urban Biography—I thought it would be a good time to remind my fellow Duluthians that we have been through something…

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