Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum (a.k.a “The Cribs”)

From True North: Alternative & Offbeat Destinations in and Around Duluth, Superior, and the Shores of Lake Superior, copyright © 2003, Zenith City Press, Duluth, Minnesota. Available at the Duluth Public Library.

Many dramatic theories have been proffered about the original use of the concrete ruins that lie about thirty yards into Lake Superior just off the Lakewalk behind some of Canal Park’s hotels. One story claims it was a prohibition-era gambling house. Federal lake charts identify the ruins as “the cribs,” but it is more popularly known as “Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum.” The truth is neither glamorous nor grim. “Uncle Harvey” was Harvey Whitney, one of the Whitney brothers of Superior. Built in the winter of 1919, the “mausoleum” was no burial site but rather a sand and gravel hopper that was abandoned in 1922 after another of Duluth’s building booms reached its end. Harvey Whitney had gambled that the city of Duluth would revive efforts to build an outer harbor breakwater, and he hoped to provide the materials. Unfortunately for Whitney, the plan was scrapped. Since demand never materialized, the operation shut down. The hopper operated by taking sand from the Apostle Islands and gravel from Grand Marais, which was loaded from the scow Limit using steam-powered clam-shell cranes. A conveyer belt then carried the sand and gravel to shore where it was sent through a tunnel into trucks. (The tunnel was the alleged site of the “casino.”) Today, the cribs are used by scuba divers and adventurous folks who swim out to the concrete ruin and use it as a diving platform. It is also home to nesting ducks.