Duluth’s Uncommon Aerial Bridge, 1908

Duluth’s Uncommon Aerial Bridge, 1908

A few years back my family vacationed in Duluth and we fell in love with the place. I took a ton of pictures while we were there, some of which you can see here. One of the highlights of the trip was sightseeing in Canal Park and enjoying the seaport ambience surrounding the Aerial Lift Bridge.

canal-park3

It’s called the Aerial Lift Bridge today because the center span lifts to allow ships to pass underneath. In the down position, cars can drive over, but it wasn’t always so easy. This bridge was once just the Aerial Bridge — there was no lift. This was a very uncommon transporter bridge, also sometimes referred to as a gondola bridge, and it was the first of only two bridges like it ever built in the United States.

Freight D.O. MIlls, 1908

In 1870 and ’71, the Duluth Ship Canal was dredged through Minnesota (Park) Point, separating settlers on the peninsula from the mainland. After a contest in 1892 failed to deliver a bridge design that was acceptable to the War Department, a second design was commissioned, inspired by a French transporter bridge built in 1898. Architect and Engineer Thomas McGilvray would oversee the project, and the bridge was completed in 1905.

In the photo above from 1908, we see the Freighter D.O. Mills steaming out of the harbor into Lake Superior with the bridge gondola crossing behind. The D.O. Mills was a brand new freighter at the time, having just been launched in 1907. It was 552 feet long and had a listed carrying capacity of ten thousand tons.

Those decorative lamp posts along the pier are beautiful.

Aerial Bridge, Duluth, 1908

Above: from the harbor side, looking out on Lake Superior. Passengers wait on the ramp as the car finishes a crossing.

Aerial Bridge, Duluth, 1908

Above: a closeup of the car. Below: zoomed in a little more. I love that you can see the ladies in their pretty dresses and hats sitting inside the car.

Aerial Bridge, Duluth, 1908

Aerial Bridge, Duluth, 1908

Below: the gondola carries horses and passengers. Note how one person is still mounted. It reportedly only took one minute for the car to cross, and the bridge designers claimed this car could carry 350 passengers.

Aerial Bridge, Duluth, 1908

In 1930, modifications were made, including raising the center span, and the Aerial Bridge became the Aerial Lift Bridge. Today it is a major landmark and tourist attraction, and still a very uncommon bridge.

See Also: Lake Superior Ruins: Duluth’s Ice House
See Also: Canal Park and Aerial Lift Bridge
See Also: Duluth’s Abandoned Interstate Bridge

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