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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You asked for it: Daily “This Day” emails are back!

Your response to our plan to cut down on your email in-box clutter has been clear: The vast majority of our readers want to receive a “This Day in Duluth” every day. So starting tomorrow morning (May 5) we are bringing them back—but now you can customize exactly what you want to receive from us.…

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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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Zenith City website refreshed!

Regular visitors and email subscribers to Zenith City Press will notice a few changes starting today, May 1, 2021—exactly nine years since we first launched the site. First, thanks to webmeister Dan Turner, we’ve freshened up the front page a bit with a modified design and new icons for the ZCP Story Archive. Then we…

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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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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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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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New: Vintage Art from Zenith City Press!

Zenith City Press is happy to announce that we have launched a line of artwork celebrating historic Duluth and Western Lake Superior. Over the years we have collected images of historic art featuring Duluth, Minnesota, Superior, Wisconsin, and the Minnesota North Shore of Lake Superior, from paintings, sketches, and etchings to photos, maps, and lithographic…

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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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Make Your Holidays Historic!

Whether you’re buying for a loved one or yourself, you can’t beat the gift of a good book. And if you or yours enjoy Duluth history, we have you covered with a variety of titles and some great deals on book bundles. Click the cover to review or purchase each book. New! Duluth: An Urban…

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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 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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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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Help the people who help us research our books

Without the Duluth Public Library’s main branch Reference Department, I would not have become fascinated by Duluth history. I and others would not have been able to gather a tenth of the research we’ve collected with the unique resources maintained by the DPL’s amazing and ever-helpful reference librarians. There simply wouldn’t be any modern history…

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