April 23, 1897: The Interstate Bridge opens between Duluth & Superior

On this day in Duluth in 1897, the Interstate Bridge connecting Duluth to Superior opened for the first time. Until that day, the only way to get to and from the cities was by ferry boat (there was a railroad bridge, but no commuter rail line). Congress first passed a bill allowing a toll bridge between Duluth and Superior in 1890, but disagreements between the two cities delayed construction for years. The bridge, designed by A. P. Boller and operated by the Duluth-Superior Bridge Company, spanned 1,094 feet between Duluth’s Rice’s Point and Superior’s Connor’s Point. The swing-arm bridge was built in three spans; the 486-foot center span swiveled to allow shipping traffic to pass. Mayor C. S. Starkweather of Superior called the event the “marriage of Helen and Troy.” Like the Trojan horse itself, the opening was a deception—in this case, to give the appearance of compliance to the bridge’s charter. Work hadn’t actually been completed on the Superior side, much to the chagrin of a farmer from Tower, Minnesota, who tried to cross in an ox-drawn wagon but was turned away. When it was first placed in operation the bridge welcomed pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles and carried two railroad tracks and a streetcar line. Everyone paid a toll: five cents for pedestrians and bicycles, fifteen cents for wagons, and a dime for each head of cattle. Read more about the bridge here.

The Interstate Bridge, which connected Duluth and Superior ca. 1900. (Image: Zenith City Press)