Hunters Park

Washburn School c. 1905. (Image: University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections)

Keep Your Broom on the Ice, Boys

Macfarlane’s money was spent in great quantity on both church buildings and other notable neighborhood institutions. He spent $7,000 to build the Curling Club in Waverly Park, which operated for only three years between 1893–1896. It reportedly had three sheets of curling ice with a skating area around them, and the clubhouse included a large fireplace. According to Macrae, “An early description speaks of the extravagant layout, the commodious clubrooms, the magnificent rink, the bonspiels, and the many social and happy gatherings held there, the ladies often preparing dinners for the curlers.” When the curlers abandoned it for better quarters downtown, it stood empty for many years, until one winter when it collapsed under the weight of heavy snow.

Macfarlane was also responsible for building the first two schools in the neighborhood. The first was a two-room schoolhouse Macfarlane had built on his property along the creek between Lewis and St. Andrews Streets in 1887. One room was for classes; the other served as the MacFarlane family’s ice house. The second schoolhouse—built by the city in 1893—was located at St. Andrews Street and Rosyln Avenue on land donated by Macfarlane. Glen Avon closed in 1905 when Washburn Elementary School opened nearby. (It was demolished in 1910; houses now occupy the lot.) Only Washburn still stands. It closed in 1993 and is now owned by the Duluth Bible Church.

Hunter and Macfarlane were no slouches when it came to ensuring profit in their neighborhood endeavors. The same year they platted the first four divisions of Glen Avon and the first division of Hunters Park, they also began regular service on their single-track railway from Fourth Street and 24th Avenue East to Petre Street (now St. Marie) to Woodland on up to Austin Street. Their Motor Line Improvement Company had several familiar investors, including G. G. Hartley, A. S. Chase, Joseph Sellwood, J. D. Stryker, and J. D. Howard. A waiting station built in 1892 for riders of this line still stands across the street from the Glen Avon Presbyterian Church, though it has been converted to a private home. By 1901, like other street railway companies formed to serve new suburbs, Motor Line Improvement had been absorbed by the Duluth Street Railway Company. Most of the time, the line ran only to Forest Hill Cemetery, but it did go to the end of the line seven times a day. Prior to 1902, trolley poles ran down the center of Woodland Avenue; after that year they were moved to the sides of the street. Until the streetcar operators got annoyed with no-shows, it was also common to have packages of groceries or other household purchases delivered curbside along the line.

In the evenings, the neighborhood streetcar stops must have been a virtual Who’s Who of Duluth real estate men, lawyers, judges, educators and businessmen. The main stop after Glen Avon waiting station was Oxford Street, where one could get meats, groceries, penny candy, tam-o’-shanter hats and mail at George McGhie’s store. (Until the post office was built next door, McGhie actually had the mail delivered to his store at his expense for the convenience of his neighbors.)

Author Margaret Culkin Banning wrote a description of growing up in a stately Victorian house just beyond the store on the 2300 block of Woodland Avenue. It was near the turn of the 20th century, and her father W. E. Culkin was the Register of the Duluth Land Office and eventual founder of the St. Louis County Historical Society. Their next-door neighbor was Charles C. Salter, founder of the Bethel Mission. She recalls that when the streetcars occasionally got stuck below their bluffside homes during blizzards, the elderly Salter would hobble down his long stairway to serve them coffee. Charles Miller, namesake of the Miller Trunk Highway, was also a neighbor. Across Roslyn Avenue from their driveway lived the McCabes (who a decade later built another home that now serves as the McCabe Renewal Center). At the end of the street, at the corner of Roslyn and Oxford, were the W. A. McGonagles and the J. L. Washburns. Across Oxford were the R. E. Denfelds and the William A. Pryors.

The Washburn home was the most impressive house on a fairly impressive corner. Culkin Banning describes it as “tall and turreted, painted dark green and with a low stone wall…surrounded by porches.” It also had three living rooms, a billiard room, and a catalogued library. Those books later were donated to form the foundation of Washburn Elementary School’s library. (Read more about the house here.)

Except for the Washburn home, demolished in 1946, Culkin’s house and all the others she mentions still exist—though the stone wall that ran along the Washburn property’s borders still stands. After a few owners, the large Pryor house was bought by the Glen Avon Masonic Lodge in 1923 and served as their headquarters until about 1999, when it returned to use as a private home.

Across Woodland from the Culkin Victorian is the house where Ronald M. Hunter lived with his family, which then stood next to a large open area commonly called Hunter’s Field, below Hunter’s Hill. In effect, this was the “park” in Hunters Park, where the community often held events like the play mentioned above, athletic competitions, carnivals and picnics. The field now hosts Glen Avon Hockey and Baseball, but the curious can find remnants of sidewalks and an elevated bridge along Tischer Creek nearby. The hill, which most people today access via a steep track at the end of Fairmont Street, was once probably climbed via a more sedate trail that can still be embarked upon where the dirt end of Abbotsford Avenue meets the hockey club parking lot. For at least forty years, gazebos stood halfway up and at the top, furnished with wooden benches where ramblers could rest.

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Story by Heidi Bakk-Hansen. Originally published on Zenith City Online (2012–2017). Click here for more stories by Heidi Bakk-Hansen.