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Category: Duluth Area

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

Vintage View of Split Rock Lighthouse

Vintage View of Split Rock Lighthouse

I was hunting through a box of old photographs the other day and I found this — a vintage shot of Split Rock Lighthouse on the north shore of Lake Superior.  The original print is a tiny photo — about 1-3/4″ by 3″.  I scanned it at high resolution and blew it up.  It is presented here in unrestored condition.  I intend to digitally restore it in the future.

In the years following the construction of the Lake Superior International Highway (1924), tourists began visiting Split Rock more frequently.  Based on some distinguishing characteristics I’ve detailed below, I believe this photo is from the 1925 to 1930 time-frame.  The photographer and the couple in the shot are unknown.

UPDATE: Lee Radzak, a representative from the Minnesota Historical Society and Site Manager for the lighthouse dates this photo between the late 20’s and mid-30’s.  Lee says: “This appears to be a tourist’s snapshot.  I would put the date at circa 1930.”

Split Rock Lighthouse

A man and a woman pose in front of the lighthouse.

Split Rock Lighthouse

The woman in this photo appears to be clutching a book or perhaps a handbag.  She appears to be dressed in twenties or thirties-period clothing… is she wearing a bonnet?

Split Rock Lighthouse

In 1936, the retaining wall on the right had a chain link fence installed on the top, but there’s no sign of the fence posts or the fence in this photo, so we know it’s pre-1936.

Split Rock Lighthouse

Interesting.  Although this lighthouse has a spiral staircase inside, there is a ladder propped up on the exterior in this shot.

To see photos from my trip to Split Rock in 2012, click here.

Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

Canal Park and Aerial Lift Bridge

Canal Park and Aerial Lift Bridge

Canal Park in Duluth is a very enjoyable place to spend some time if you love the outdoors, the water, and drinking and dining.  The main attraction is really the aerial lift bridge, but there is a ton to see and do.  We visited for three days and had a great time.

Pictured above are the two lighthouses at the tip of each pier at the entrance from Lake Superior to the Duluth-Superior Harbor.  The ships travel the channel in between the two piers, under the aerial lift bridge.

This is the aerial lift bridge.  It is an amazing sight.  It started out as an aerial transporter — or gondola — bridge.  It was one of only two transporter bridges ever constructed in the United States.  Originally, a gondola hung from the superstructure, and vehicles would be loaded onto the gondola, and then transported across the harbor — like a ferry suspended from the bridge.  In 1930, the gondola was replaced with the lift bridge road surface — a roadway that raises and lowers every half hour to allow ships to pass underneath.

This lighthouse resides on the north pier and is a popular tourist destination.  It’s is a stone’s throw from the Comfort Suites, right on the Lakewalk.

In the photo above, you can see the lift bridge going up on the right to allow our boat to pass underneath.  The traffic in canal park gets pretty hairy every time this bridge goes up.

This small bridge is actually a draw bridge which breaks open in the center and raises in two pieces.  It marks the entrance between the harbor and the marina.

We took a Lake Superior and Harbor cruise on this boat, the Vista Star.  The Vista Fleet is a very affordable and fun way to spend an afternoon in Canal Park, Duluth.

When we woke up on the second day of our trip, a fog had rolled in off Lake Superior.

Below is a bird’s eye view of Canal Park.  You can see the lift bridge left of center.  On the left is Lake Superior, and on the right is the Duluth Harbor.

Photos by Troy, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC


Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse and the state park of the same name are about 40 minutes northeast of Duluth, just down the highway from Two Harbors.  It is a very enjoyable stop on the North Shore of Lake Superior, highly recommended if you’re in the area.

This is the former staff housing and restored lighthouse keeper’s residence.

This is the former Tramway cable house.  The concrete pillars to the left once supported a railroad track which ran all the way down to Lake Superior.  It was used to haul all the materials the keeper needed from ships on the lake up to the lighthouse.  In 1934, a road was finally built to the lighthouse, and the tramway fell out of use.  Today there is a very long wooden stairway which runs beside the old tramway, down to the beach.  It’s beautiful, and it’s also quite a workout.

See Also: Vintage View of Split Rock Lighthouse

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC


Carnegie Library — Superior, Wisconsin

Carnegie Library — Superior, Wisconsin

Although this is not a Minnesota place, it was just across the bridge from Duluth, so I took the opportunity to visit Superior, Wisconsin to snap a few pics.

Built in 1901, this is one of two Carnegie libraries in Superior.  It is on Hammond Avenue in a working class part of town.  It is presently vacant and undergoing restoration.

You can read much more about this library here.

This was the main library in Superior until 1991. Believe it or not, the City Council voted to demolish this building, but the destruction was stopped via restraining order.

Photos by Troy, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

Lake Superior Ruins: Duluth’s Ice House

Lake Superior Ruins: Duluth’s Ice House

This is a Duluth landmark known to locals as the Ice House.  On federal navigation charts it is referred to as Cribs, and has also been called Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum. Although the subject of several local legends — it’s a remnant of a former prohibition-era casino, or a bunker — the truth is less spectacular.  It is the foundation of a former sand and gravel loading dock, the brainchild of Harvey Whitney, one of the Whitney Brothers of Superior, Wisconsin.

Whitney speculated that the City of Duluth might resurrect an outer harbor breakwater which had protected this area of the shore but had been abandoned in 1872.  In anticipation, he built this dock.

Unfortunately, the breakwater was never rebuilt.  Subsequently, due to the punishing weather and erosion from Lake Superior, The Ice House only lasted three years, from 1919 to 1922.

The Ice House is now a diving platform for adventurous swimmers.

Icehouse, Duluth, Minnesota

Icehouse, Duluth, Minnesota

Icehouse, Duluth, Minnesota

Above: swimmers enjoying a dive from the Ice House in June of 2012.

Update: Sometime between New Years Day and February 15th, 2015, the pillar part of CRIBS disappeared beneath Lake Superior, and some speculate the Icehouse portion may soon follow.

Icehouse, Duluth, Minnesota

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright 2017 Sonic Tremor Media

Duluth’s Abandoned Interstate Bridge

Duluth’s Abandoned Interstate Bridge

This is what remains of the Interstate Bridge between Duluth and Superior, Wisconsin.  It has been converted to a public fishing pier.

Built in 1897, the Interstate Bridge was the first bridge to span the bay. Prior to 1897, the only way to quickly travel between Duluth and Superior, Wisconsin was to take a ferry.

Interstate Bridge went through a whole series of changes and modifications to handle the changing transportation demands of the times. Originally it was a rail bridge with two parallel rail lines, and a wooden roadway for horse-drawn wagons was suspended off the side. The remaining portion of the bridge shown above constitutes two-fifths of the original bridge. Beyond the truss portion of the bridge shown above there was the main swing-span portion of the bridge, which could rotate 9o degrees to allow ships to pass, and on the other end, two more sections like those shown above, a truss bridge connected to the shoreline by an approach bridge made of wooden pilings. Later, the bridge became a toll bridge when automobiles began to overwhelm the crossing with traffic.

This bridge was used until December 21st, 1962, when the swing span was locked in the open position. It was demolished in the 1970s. Read a lot more about this bridge via John Weeks.

There is a public boat ramp right between the two bridges.

Above: Blatnik Bridge, also commonly referred to as the High Bridge by locals. It replaced the Interstate Bridge.  In 2016, a Minnesota man lost control of his vehicle and went over the guardrail of this bridge, landing 40 feet below on an approach road. Luckily, the accident happened before he was over the water.

Check out another Duluth area bridge — the Aerial Lift Bridge in Canal Park.

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media