January 12, 1930: Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge first opened for automobile traffic

On this day in Duluth in 1930, the Aerial Lift Bridge was put into public operation for the first time. The lift span’s road deck was only half done, so traffic was limited to one lane and motorists had to take turns to cross. Meanwhile workers continued to pave the other side of the roadway, a task the city said would be complete in February of that year. The bridge opened for traffic at eight a.m., after which “hundreds of motorists” crossed the lift span. It was the first time anyone who was not actually working on the bridge used it to cross the canal since July 2, 1929, when the aerial bridge’s gondola car crossed for the last time and was then immediately removed to begin the bridge’s conversion from a transfer bridge to a lift bridge. The first trolley car crossed over the remodeled bridge on March 12 of that year. On March 29 the tug USS Essayons made history as the first vessel to pass below the raised lift span of Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge. The steamer F. E. Taplin became the first large ore carrier to pass under the bridge on April 24. On June 5 the Kansas City Bridge Company—the firm that converted the bridge—officially turned the bridge over to the city of Duluth. Read much more about Duluth’s famous Aerial Bridge here.

The first automobiles to cross Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge, January 12, 1930. (Image: Zenith City Press)