January 30, 1909: Business leaders say Garfield Avenue in “Disgraceful Condition”

On this day in Duluth in 1909, the Duluth News Tribune reported that those owners of businesses on Rice’s Point along Garfield Avenue considered the road in “disgraceful condition. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and shippers that immediate action was needed as the street “is for a great part of the year impassable.” Because it was the only road leading to the Interstate Bridge between Duluth and Superior, from 1897 to 1962 Garfield Avenue was one of Duluth’s busiest streets. But Rice’s Point is a sandbar, and Garfield Avenue was not paved when streetcar tracks were laid in 1897—so after storms the sands shifted, often dramatically, forcing clean-up to keep the streetcars operating. The effort to pave Garfield took years. In 1904 a newspaper said that “after a hard rain, the street is nearly half submerged.” A 1908 article described Garfield as “a continuous succession of holes and bumps which are liberally covered with sufficient dust in dry weather to make several inches of mud in wet weather.” Another story described the street as being so impassible that “a boat or a scow would be better adapted for use in the mud and slush than a wagon.” The January 1909 article was part of a campaign to prompt the city—property owners had had enough. Property values had stagnated as the road remained unpaved, and it hurt business operating along the avenue. After funds were raised, and plenty of debate, construction was approved. The work was complete in October 1909. To tame the shifting sand of Rice’s Point, contractor P. McDonnel and his crew paved over limestone block that sat on a six-inch concrete base. Did you know that Rice’s Point one had a residential section first called “Swede Town” and later the “Garfield Avenue District”? It disappeared when the Interstate Bridge was replaced by the Blatnik Bridge. Read the neighborhood’s history here.

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