Tales from a city: Duluth

To begin, Harold has the week off and has gone to do some late-winter hunting with Vanna this week, and to say the least I am very jealous, and hopefully, he bags a couple birds to brag about. I will start this off with a small introduction about myself. I started at the Maple Lake Messenger about eight months ago, which has been a great experience. I love the small town feel, and have been received with nothing but kindness. I have met a lot of people in town and they are truly wonderful. The community here seems very deeply rooted, and the traditions of Maple Lake run rampant around town. It is a deep breath of fresh air, and lacks the rush and clutter of big cities such as Minneapolis. This I enjoy the most.
I had been living in Duluth for eight years, five of which i attended college and graduated with a Bachelor’s in arts and a minor in philosophy. I moved down due to a lack of decent jobs in the Duluth area, but still managed to make myself one of the locals up there. I still miss it to this day. After being offered a position here at the Messenger, and a bad fall that injured my mother pretty badly with two broken arms, including bumps and bruises, after falling off the stairs at home, I have assimilated nicely into the newspaper business and Maple Lake itself. I would like to thank everyone I have met so far for your kindness and open arms into your community. I have enjoyed it thoroughly. Enough about me now, I would like to share some stories and history of the Zenith City that people may not have heard about. There is a lot of history from that area and I’ll be sharing some of my favorites.
Known for the iconic aerial lift bridge, Bob Dylan, iron ore, and the largest fresh water lake in the world, Lake Superior, Duluth has been one of the oldest port cities in the nation. There are still remnants from those days, such as an old flour mill structure off the north part of the beach right off the lake walk that is pummeled by waves and now sits leaning out towards the lake. Every now and then I would see a couple of brave swimmers jumping from the top of the structure. The greatest way to get to know Duluth, or any city, is to drive around and explore some of these structures.
In the last couple of years I was up there I worked for a Mexican-American food joint called Burrito Union. They had me as a cook, but mostly as a delivery driver. That is where I saw some of the hidden gems from Duluth. If people went to the north side of Duluth (called the east side) where the highway comes to an end, they could see huge mansions on every street heading up the hill. These old historic mansions have been around for at least eighty years, and still stand strong to this day. The only thing that has changed is that they are now used for rental properties for up to eight people, some of them at least. The college has really turned some of those historic properties into nothing more than student housing and even some college class buildings. I am just happy that they haven’t torn them down to build new structures. People can also find the historic Glensheen Mansion right off Lake Superior, home of a gruesome murder that took the life of one of the owners, Elisabeth Congdon. I took the tour there once and it is quite the estate, and truly a look back to history. Even the old cement dock for cargo boats still stands, with the very end of the pier dropping into the frigid water.
Down by the shore of Lake Superior and Highway 35, people can find an eclectic mix of old and new buildings. Fitger’s Brewhouse is located right off the shore, and has been serving the famous beer for over a century. Large ships can be seen coming into the port, which was Duluth’s number one trade for many years back in the day, and continues to be one of the greatest ports for the Great Lakes. A large stretch of beach and land seems to reach all the way to Superior, and is used today as a vacation site for many.
While I was working for Burrito Union I would always pick up the Duluth Reader, and found some particularly interesting information one day while flipping through. I saw a picture (featured) of the beach, but turned into a junkyard. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was no real date on when and how long it was a junkyard, but historians say that it was around the 1960s. One of Duluth’s biggest tourist attraction areas had been trashed at one point in history. It did not last long, however, since Duluth cleaned up the mess and opened up the Lake Walk in 1988 for tourism. Today, this part of Duluth is one of its biggest financial gains, besides the college and shipping. Now, there wasn’t always a junkyard or shops and restaurants. This part of Duluth also held another very important role, in the making of flour and flour mills. Minneapolis/St. Paul had been known for its flour mills and the Pillsbury company, but Duluth had the largest flour mill, Imperial Flour Mill, in 1892. It was eventually bought out by the Pillsbury company and Duluth really never recovered the flour business after that. People traveling in the downtown area can still see hand painted murals that read “Imperial Mills Flour, The Best.” Not only did Duluth have a huge part in shipping, but also in the making of flour, which I had no idea until I heard stories from work.

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