September 26, 2006: Duluth’s historic foghorn dismantled

On this day in Duluth in 2006,  members of Duluth’s TOOT (“ReTurn Our Old Tone”), who had purchased Duluth’s old fog horn, dismantled the horn. Duluth had relied on a fog horn from 1885 to until the 1970s—some folks loved it, others hated it. The 1885 signal was updated with steam-powered whistles in 1901, locomotive whistles in 1915, and twin Type F diaphone horns in 1923. The diaphone horns’ deep “Bee-Oh” tone could be heard for twenty miles. Many complained that the horn rattled windows in houses along the east hillside. The diaphone horns were replaced in 1968 with what many called the “peanut whistle.” Many rejoiced, but many others felt Duluth had lost part of its identity. In 1995 TOOT, led by Dr. Eric Ringsred, purchased an antique diaphone horn and installed it in the South Pier light. The first night it operated, Duluth mayor Gary Doty was barraged with phone calls complaining about the horn. Thus began a strenuous relationship between the city and TOOT, and when the Coast Guard cut power to the signal in 2005, TOOT refused to pay for a power supply for the horn. Read a much more detailed account of the history of the horn here.

The workings of Duluth’s foghorn inside the South Breakwater Light Station. (Image: Zenith City Press)rn