Oneota Park Fairgrounds

The old Wheeler race track. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

The St. Louis County Agricultural Society organized in 1870 to exhibit the county’s agricultural, mining, and industrial produce. The first St. Louis County Fair was held October 10–11, 1871, in downtown Duluth’s Pendleton Block on Superior Street at First Avenue West. Five years later fairgrounds opened in Oneota Park, established on a parcel of land once owned by Henry Wheeler with an entrance at Thirty-Fourth Avenue West and East Third Street. The facility had just a few buildings and a gravel track for horse racing. In 1896 a new race track and buildings were constructed for that year’s fair, and the facility became known as the Wheeler Racetrack. In 1911 the St. Louis County Fair moved to Hibbing. Wheeler continued to be used as a racetrack and whenever a large space was needed for events such as circuses and carnivals. In 1924 the City of Duluth began proceedings to condemn Wheeler Racetrack and to convert it to a playground. Duluth acquired the land in 1926 and it has since been used as a public park known as Wheeler Field. Today the facility consists mostly of softball fields, a bocce ball court, and a historic field house. It also once held Peterson Arena, which was destroyed by a fire in December 2004 when a Zamboni exploded during a broomball game. Today that space is occupied by a skateboard park.