Stewart Creek Bridge

The Stewart Creek Bridge photographed in winter 1929 by F. Rodney Paine. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

West Skyline Parkway over Stewart Creek | Architect: Unknown | Built: 1927 | Extant

When Sam Snively took over as Duluth’s mayor in 1921, his vision for Duluth’s park system included expanding Roger’s Boulevard, built along the ancient shore of Glacial Lake Duluth five hundred feet above Lake Superior. The plan involved connecting boulevards from Fond du Lac all the way to Brighton Beach. His first move was to complete a project one of his mayoral predecessors, Clarence Magney, began in 1920: acquiring land for parks and roadways from Thompson Hill west to the recently created Jay Cooke State Park A boulevard would stretch across the western hillside from Thompson Hill to Beck’s Road and then south along Mission Creek to the St. Louis River and the state park. In May 1921, Snively completed the purchase of 330 acres surrounding a high rocky outcrop overlooking Morgan Park, Smithville, Gary, and New Duluth.

The natural landmark was named Bardon’s Peak for early Superior, Wisconsin, resident James Bardon, who once owned the land it occupies. Snively named the new park after Magney and dubbed the roadway Bardon’s Peak Boulevard. Plans included an impressive overlook at Bardon’s Peak, outlined with rough-hewn local stone and providing dramatic views of the St. Louis River estuary. Roadway engineers encountered a challenge along the roadway’s path when it crossed the deep ravine cut by Stewart Creek, likely named for early resident John Stewart—also the namesake of the Stewart River along Lake Superior’s North Shore three miles northeast of Two Harbors.

Historical consultant Jeffrey Hess, who wrote the bridge’s nomination for the National Register of Historic Places, described the span’s design an example of what pioneer American landscape architect Andrew J. Downing called the “Picturesque,” incorporating natural and designed landscape elements together to achieve beauty although “parts are not balanced, proportions are not perfect, and details are rude.” Hess’s description of the bridge, which was faced with “massive, crudely shaped blocks” of dark-green, locally quarried gabbro, includes a touch of poetry: “Springing about seven feet above grade from rubble abutments, the single elliptical arch laps a deep ravine, rising about ten feet over a span of thirty feet…. The romantic ideasof the design are further enhanced by the pinnacle-like boulders lining the approaches and the spiky, saw-tooth railings surmounting the arch like a ragged crown.”

Snively opened the road, and consequently the bridge, in 1925. Mission Creek Boulevard to Jay Cooke State Park was completed several years later. In 1929 the boulevard project, first began in 1889, was considered complete and renamed Skyline Parkway. The Stewart Creek Bridge underwent a major rehabilitation in 2013.