Village of Park Point

This postcard from about 1905 calls Minnesota Point Duluth’s “Hay Fever Haven.” (Image: X-comm)

What was in reality the principal part of Duluth in the earliest days became without government in 1877, when the City of Duluth became defunct and the succeeding village had smaller area. That part of Minnesota Point “lying across” the canal in 1881 became the village of Park Point.

The first meeting of the Board of Trustees was held “at the shop of R. E. Jefferson,” on April 9, 1881. “Certificates of election were presented by R. H. Palmer, president; Henry Kitchli, James S. Pierce, and F. T. Gowin, trustees; Z. D. Scott, treasurer; J. M. U. Thompson, recorder; D. E. Holston, justice of the peace.” At the next meeting, April 20th, Archie McLaren was elected assessor and “William McLaren constable-elect not qualifying, Harry Brown was appointed to the office.” Harvey H. Brown became first street commissioner and the village in its first year passed ordinances of general government similar to those of the average incorporated place. One ordinance among them was perhaps noticeable; it was that which prohibited the sale of intoxicating liquors to Indians.

Canal Ferry
Henry A. Kitchli became second president of the village, being elected on January 3, 1882. Interesting deliberations of the trustees were those regarding the canal; in 1881, J. M. Nutt applied for license to run a ferry across the canal, but was refused; and in 1882 “an appropriation of $25 was made for benefit of a bridge across the canal.” Further appropriations were made during the year, $90 on November 10th, and $20 on November 21st.

Ferry Regulations
Under George Jones, president in 1883, the trustees “adopted ferry regulations,” having appointed Charles Winters “superintendent of repairs on the ship canal bridge” on February 8th. Ferry tariff called for “five cents, for a single trip” and “families were made a flat rate of $1.00 a month.” Only one ferryman was allowed to operate, Charles Winters being licensed. “Gro- 274ceries for families were handled at 25 to 50 cents a month.” The ferryman was expected to be at call from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and until 11 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Board-walk Across Canal
It would seem by the foregoing that there was some sort of an inexpensive bridge spanning the canal, but it apparently was not the wire-rope bridge that spanned the waterway in the first years of the canal. It is stated that “the suspension bridge was cut out many, many years ago, but for a few winters thereafter a sort of board walk was laid across the ice.” In 1884, the Village of Park Point adopted a resolution “permitting the Village of Duluth to build and maintain a combined wagon and railroad drawbridge across the ship canal.” Spanning of Canal a Perplexing Question.-Shortly afterwards, Ferryman Winters, who was also a village trustee, resigned the latter office so that he might continue as ferryman.

Aerial Ferry Bridge
The problem of transportation means across the canal was a matter of prime importance to the Village of Park Point throughout its history, and finally it was the deciding factor in overcoming the opposition of the villagers to inclusion in the City of Duluth. There was keen opposition to the absorption “arbitrarily,” but “finally, being promised a bridge, rather informally and not truly officially perhaps, they surrendered,” and came into the city boundaries in 1890. However, many years were destined to pass before the canal was spanned by the unique steel structure now known as the Duluth Aerial Ferry Bridge. Rowboat ferry was maintained until 1897, and that with increasing traffic was substituted in that year by a steam ferry. That, however, was inadequate, and a tunnel under the canal was thought of, but abandoned. The problem of bridging the canal, so as to cope with the pedestrian and vehicular traffic across it as well as the ship traffic through it without delays, presented a difficult problem, and all suggested bridges were rejected as unsatisfactory and unsuitable until the city engineer suggested the building of one on somewhat similar lines to that of the suspended car transfer bridge at Rouen, France. His plans were favored by the U. S.

War Department, and a bond issue for the amount of the estimated 275cost of the structure ($100,000) was “sanctioned by the State Legislature,” and contract was let for the erection of the bridge in 1901.

There were difficulties in building, and it was not until the winter of 1904-05 that “the work was erected and completed.”

Unique Aerial Ferry Bridge.
It is the only bridge of its kind in America; indeed, it is claimed that it is the “only bridge of its kind in the world,” for the one at Rouen is only similar to it in basic principle. And its utility may be appreciated by the fact that more than eleven million tons of shipping passed through the canal in 1904, and that the bridge ferried across the canal “on April 9, 1905, 33,000 passengers, of which 29,500 were between noon and 7:15 P. M.” By contrast with the old wire-rope bridge, which swayed dangerously with every breeze, and to cross which “with a gale blowing off the lake” men many times “went … on their hands and knees,” such a mode “made imperative by the tossing and swinging of the bridge,” the new steel bridge was appreciated advance in comfort, as the steel cage, or “car operates as well when wind blows sixty miles an hour as when no wind is blowing.” However, when the trustees of Park Point were prevailed upon to cease opposing the merging of their village with Duluth, they did not think that so many years would elapse before the problem of canal-spanning would be satisfactorily solved.

Presidents of Village
Briefly, the unstated and important Park Point history is as follows: B. G. Yocum became president in 1884; John Mears in 1885; B. G. Yocum again in 1886; A. C. Robinson in 1887; Henry F. Smith in 1888; Michael Gallagher in 1889, in May of which year “communication from the City of Duluth was received, notifying the council of the Village of Park Point that said City of Duluth accepted the Village of Park Point as a part of the City of Duluth, and that Park Point would become a part of the first ward of said city.”

Sources:

  • Van Brunt, Walter, ed. Duluth and St. Louis County, Minnesota Vols. 1 – 3. The American Historical Society. Chicago: 1922.
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