March 31: 2005: Aerial Bridge Boss Steve Douville’s last lift

On this day in Duluth in 2005, long-time Duluth Lift Bridge Supervisor Steve Douville lifted the bridge for the last time. By then, Douville had likely lifted the bridge at least 150,000 times, but the bridge got the last laugh on Douville: the man who likely “bridged” millions of drivers was himself bridged on his way to his last day, delaying the historic event. He did not lift the bridge to allow a vessel to pass beneath it but as a “maintenance lift” for the benefit of local TV news reporters. On the bridge since 1972, Douville joined the crew following four years in the navy. When he came home, his brother-in-law saw an ad for the job in the newspaper and showed it to Douville. “That’s something you could do,” he had said. Ten years later Douville was in charge. During his tenure the bridge’s operations would go from being controlled by levers and belts to computers—and both systems had their problems. At the time of Douville’s retirement in 2005, Director of Public Works Dick Larson (Douville’s boss), emphasized not only Douville’s knack for fixing the bridge, but his character as well. “[Steve] lives and breathes the bridge, and really cares about it,” he told the Duluth News Tribune in 2005. “He’s going to be a hard guy to replace,” Wall added. “He is the bridge.” Read more about Douville—and all of those who held the position of Aerial Bridge Supervisor—here.

Steve Douville. (Image: Duluth Shipping News)