December 16, 1918: Commissioner proposes pipe over aerial bridge to bring fresh water to Park Point

On this day in Duluth in 1918, Public Utilities Commissioner Philip G. Phillips recommended that the fresh water supply to park Point “be placed over the top of the aerial bridge instead of under the canal,” the Duluth News Tribune reported. The six-inch main that carried water under the canal to Park Point had cost Duluth $1,800 in repairs and $500 in water loss over the previous four years, and Philips estimated the new main over the bridge would cost just $1,700. A month or so before the proposal, a ship passed through the canal dragging anchor; the anchor snagged the water line, breaking it. Park Point citizens had no fresh water for several days. Philips cited the fact that a gas line already ran across the top of the bridge and its “upkeep has practically cost nothing.” It took Phillips until the following May to pass a resolution on the measure, but by October 12, 1919, the new main over the top of the bridge was in full operation. The true significance of this action was likely lost on Philips and his contemporaries. In 1929 Duluth began converting its 1905 Aerial Transfer Bridge over the canal into an aerial lift bridge. Lift bridges do not require a top span to operate, just two towers and a lifting roadway span. But the top span of Duluth’s 1905 bridge was retained to carry fresh water and gas across to residents of Park Point, and today electricity and communication lines also cross the canal via the top span. And that’s what makes Duluth’s lift bridge so special, architecturally speaking: it is the only lift bridge in the world with a top span. Read much more about the bridge in our Parks & Landmarks section of the Zenith City Press History Archive, here.

A lithographic postcard of Duluth’s Aerial Transfer Bridge, ca. 1910. (Image: Zenith City Press)