Hand-crafted of native Duluth Seamfaced Bluestone, Enger Tower stands 75-feet tall on a peak within Enger Park—583 feet above St. Louis Bay—and has provided panoramic views of the bay, Lake Superior, and the St. Louis River for Duluthians and visitors alike since its 1939 erection.
Although built in 1939, the tower—or something like it—was planned as early as 1912, when the renown landscape architectural firm of Morrell and Nichols drew up plans for Duluth’s Central Park.
Never developed, Central Park sits between 13th Ave. W. and what would be 17th Ave. W. from 1st St. up to today’s Skyline Parkway, but its original plans also included the land now occupied by Enger Park. The drawings show two “Look Out” towers, one at 2nd St. and the other in roughly the same spot as today’s tower.
At some point prior to 1934 (records are unclear), that upper portion of Central Park was named “Zenith Park.” The generosity of Norwegian immigrant Bert Enger, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1877 at age thirteen, would later change the name of not one but two of Duluth’s parks.
After failing at business in Pine City, Enger, along with his partner Emil Olson, came to Duluth and started a West End furniture business in 1903. They became quite successful.
In 1920 Enger anonymously donated $50,000 to Duluth so the city could accomplish its long-time goal of condemning and purchasing the land that would make up Zenith Park and an adjacent golf course. But Mayor C. R. Magney refused to take the donation without the benefactor coming forward. So Enger ’fessed up, and when the golf course opened in 1927, it was named for him.
Enger—along with Olson—was also responsible for the renaming of Lake Shore Park. Like Central Park, Lakeshore was never fully developed; intentions were to extend it from 15th Ave. E. to the corner of the lake and include tennis courts, football and baseball fields, and a stadium.
In 1926, Captain Gerhard Folgero and his Norwegian crew sailed the replica Viking ship Leif Erikson from Norway; they arrived in Duluth June 23, 1927. Enger and Olson bought the ship and donated it to Duluth, but with a catch: they insisted the ship be displayed in Lakeshore Park and the park itself renamed as Leif Erikson Park.
Enger died in 1931 of a stroke while vacationing in Honolulu. His will left more money to the Duluth park system, and in 1934 Zenith Park was rededicated as Enger Park. In 1939, the tower went up at the cost of $30,000, all covered by Enger’s earlier contributions.
On June 15, 1939, the Tower was dedicated in a royal affair: Crown Prince Olaf and Princess Martha of Enger’s native Norway, visited Duluth to celebrate Enger and the tower’s completion. More than 5,000 spectators showed up for the event, and the tower’s infamous green beacon was added in honor of the royal visitors. Enger’s reputation in Duluth was reflected in the tower’s dedication plaque:
To the memory of
Bert J. Enger
1864 – 1931
Native of Norway
Citizen of Duluth
From Common Laborer to Merchant Prince, he demonstrated in his own life that America is a land of opportunity for the immigrant, and that her civilization is enriched by his citizenship.
In his life time, by a very generous gift, he enabled the City of Duluth to acquire and develop the land adjacent to this tower as a park and golf course for the enjoyment of future generations, and at his death bequeathed two-thirds of his estate to the people of Duluth.
Hereabout, in his life time, he spent leisure hours in admiration of the panorama of Duluth and its environs which you now may see from this tower.
In recognition of his devotion and generosity, the people of Duluth elected him to their Hall of Fame and will always cherish his memory.
Dedicated June 15, 1939, by Olav, Crown Prince of Norway.
In 2011 the entire Duluth community came together to renovate the Tower and relight it; this time it was dedicated by the King and Queen of Norway.
Copyright © 2012 by Zenith City Online