January 14, 1929: Bridge debate gets heated in City Hall

On this day in 1929, a Duluth City Council meeting broke into a heated debate over two potential designs for converting Duluth’s Aerial Transfer Bridge into a lift bridge. There had originally been just one plan, by John Harrington of the Kansas City Bridge Company. But then C. A. P. Turner—designer of the original 1905 transfer bridge—showed up with his own idea. At the time, the city council was made up of five commissioners including the mayor, each responsible for a different city department. At the time the council consisted of Public Utilities Commissioner Chris Evans, Public Safety Commissioner James E. Foubister, Public Works Commissioner Phillip J. Phillips, Public Finance Commissioner W. S. McCormick, and Mayor Sam Snively as Public Affairs Commissioner. Phillips, McCormick, and Snively backed the Harrington plan; Evans and Foubister championed Turner’s plan. During the January 14 meeting Evans introduced a resolution to abandon Harrington’s plans for Turner’s. Soon the meeting had broken into “a heated debate between [commissioners] Evans and Phillips, in which every member of the council and Mr. Turner took part.” Before Evans could request a vote on his resolution, Phillips quickly moved to adjourn. Before the adjournment vote could be taken, Evans moved to vote on his resolution. City Clerk Austin Davenport was at a loss until Mayor Snively reminded him that the first issue before the council was the motion to adjourn. The vote was 3–2 in favor to adjourn; Evans had been silenced. But just two weeks later he again called for the city to reconsider C. A. P. Turner’s plan. When the discussion turned into an argument, Mayor Snively moved for another sudden adjournment because Commissioner Phillips was absent. Phillips’ absence meant a 2–2 vote. With the vote hopelessly deadlocked and the meeting still in session, Snively and McCormick simply walked out. No one knew what to do, and spectators began asking each other, “Is it over?” Foubister stayed in his seat until the spectators had cleared the room. City Clerk Austin Davenport waited out Foubister, gathered up his records and returned to his office. The next day the headlines roared “COUNCIL BREAKS UP IN BABBLE: Aerial Bridge Problem Disrupts Meeting.” Read more about the battle convert the aerial bridge into today’s lift bridge here.