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What happened to creek at Cascade Park?

When you look at old pictures of Duluth’s Cascade Park there is a creek that runs through it. Whatever happened to it? Why did people change it?

27 Comment(s)

  1. Clark House Creek, which used to flow through the park, is now underground.

    Cascade Park was dramatically altered in 1975 to make way for the widening of Mesaba Avenue.

    The place doesn’t really deserve its name anymore, because nothing cascades there — other than the cascading brushstrokes of controversial mural artists. The creek used to have a waterfall that flowed through a sandstone wall into a lagoon.

    Paul Lundgren | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  2. A bit more detail on the pavilion and park, from the forthcoming “Lost Duluth” (May 2012) from Zenith City Press:

    Cascade Park’s 1895 Pavilion

    In 1870 the City of Duluth bought four acres of land near First Avenue West and Sixth Street through which ran Clark House Creek. Cascade Park, with the Clark House Creek running right through it, was plotted on those acres between Cascade Drive and Mesaba Avenue in 1886.

    Three years later Duluth’s first superintendant of parks, William King Rogers, developed a plan for Duluth’s park system that initially called for three parks to run along creeks starting at the proposed roadway between Miller Creek and Chester Creek that would become Skyline Parkway. As the scenic roadway expanded, more parks would follow along other creeks. Lakeshore Park, today’s Leif Erikson Park, was also part of the plan’s future and was intended to be much larger than it is today. Rogers envisioned many parks running along creeks from the boulevard to the shores of the lake and St. Louis Bay like “pearls on a string.” When he announced his idea, Cascade Park was already in place along Clark House Creek. The other two he named for assassinated U.S. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and James A. Garfield: Lincoln Park along Miller Creek and Garfield Park (later renamed Chester Park) along Chester Creek. Of all of Duluth’s early parks, Cascade was by far the grandest. Perched on a bluff above downtown Duluth’s business section, the park held many beautiful, meticulously tended gardens and carefully groomed pathways.

    In 1895 the city added a sandstone pavilion and bell tower at the heart of the park, giving it a whimsical, castle-like atmosphere . The structure had several levels and picnic facilities and played host to many garden parties and social events. Clark House Creek flowed directly through the pavilion, cascading out an opening on the building’s lakeside façade to a pond more than thirty feet below. (The creek was diverted below ground at First Avenue West.) The park quickly became a popular spot for picnickers and others seeking escape from the smoke and noise of Duluth’s busy waterfront. Unfortunately, the bell tower was destroyed during a storm in 1897. More portions of the creek were altered to flow underground as the area surrounding the park developed. In the 1950s Cascade Park was reduced in size and most of its sandstone structures were razed.

    Today only two-and-a-half acres of Cascade Park survive. When Mesaba Avenue was widened in 1975 to accommodate traffic heading toward Miller Hill Mall and surrounding retail developments, a large part of the park was sacrificed. The city demolished its remaining sandstone structures and forced Clark House Creek underground throughout the park. The city then built a concrete tower-like structure atop the bell tower’s old sandstone foundation. That foundation, which holds a bronze plaque which reads “Cascade Park,” and portions of the rock wall supporting Mesaba Avenue are all that remain of the original park.

    Tony D. | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  3. That’s interesting. I think when I suggested that MnDOT/the City screwed the town with a tough stick in the making of Mesaba, I was informed that the incline already ran along those lines and it had minimal impact.

    consuelo | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  4. A combination: the construction of Mesaba Avenue, but also the reduction in public space use and funding. Cascade Park used to be so beautiful, seeing it in it’s current state is so depressing.

    BadCat! | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  5. In addition to the widening of Mesaba Avenue, I think I’ve heard that the major floods of 1972 also played a role in the decision to shunt that creek underground.

    akjuneau | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  6. Below are shots of First Avenue West, below Cascade Park, after flooding in 1972.

    I’m not sure which 1972 flood these photos were shot after — there were two.

    Aug. 20, 1972 | In just over two hours, nearly three inches of rain falls in the Central Hillside neighborhood. Furniture, telephone poles, bricks, lumber and mud are sent down the hill. President Richard Nixon declares the area a Federal Disaster. Damages total $18 million.

    Sept. 19, 1972 | A second storm dumps another 3.42 inches in eight hours. The storm causes two deaths. Nearly 100 graves are washed up. Damages exceed $22 million.

    So, yeah, flooding might have had something to do with the decision to run the creek underground.

    Paul Lundgren | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  7. Paul, was that the same storm that wiped out Sixth Avenue East?

    Consuelo, Duluth’s Incline, officially called the Seventh Avenue West Incline ran along what would have been … Seventh Avenue West! It would have crossed over Mesaba.

    Tony D. | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  8. Paul, where were the graves that washed up?

    heysme | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  9. That 2nd photo could be the first ever Upset Duluth shot.
    Or maybe it’s Traumatized Duluth.

    brian | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  10. Same storm, Tony. I’d have to go diving into newspaper archives to refresh my memory on which cemetery, Heysme. (And by “refresh my memory” I mean my memory of reading about it; I was in my second trimester of fetushood at the time of the flood.)

    Here’s a short slide show of more storm images:

    Here’s a recent story about the storm.
    LakeVoice: “Last Chance Liquor owner recalls 1972 Duluth floods

    For more flood fun, here’s a post on PDD about the storm of 1909.
    Street Scene, 1909

    Paul Lundgren | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  11. Yep. Cascade Park was just another casualty of post WWII urban design. As all these new highways were built, and suburbs continued to grow, Americans lost any semblance of public space. To some, this phenomena was tantamount to growth and progress. To me, this was one of the greatest robberies in recent history, leaving cities like Duluth a mere shell of their former greatness.

    Codie | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  12. Sixth Avenue East looked like a war zone during the floods. I recall there was a kid who got sucked through a culvert near the top and popped out somewhere near Fourth Street. He miraculously survived with only cuts and bruises.

    TimK | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  13. Did you not read about the storms that caused so much damage, Codie?

    duluth14 | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  14. Codie, you are either going to love or be saddened by “Lost Duluth” when it comes out in May. The two most common phrases in the book: “It was destroyed as part of the I-35 Expansion” and “The building’s site now houses an Essentia Health [or St. Luke's] parking lot [or other facility].”

    Tony D. | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  15. Clark House Creek, incidentally, was named for the Clark House, which was Duluth’s main hotel and political HQ until destroyed by fire in 1881. Built by General George B. Sargent, it was where all the O.G.’s stayed when they came to buy up land and figure out how to make their booty. Its stove took four foot cordwood, and if you were anybody at all, you held your event in its ballroom.

    Click the link for a bigger picture and more details.

    hbh1 | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  16. I say we take some of the abundant bedrock we have lying around, and re-create some of these historic structures in their original (or as close as possible) locations.

    That would be a worthwhile endeavor.

    Dorkus | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  17. Codie’s right. We had to do something about the damage from the storms, but much of the damage was because we had already altered nature. Today we need to reclaim our cities from the concrete and making everything easy for cars.

    Does anyone like the way 6th Ave. East is today? Brewery Creek runs in a safe culvert underneath, but the street isn’t safe for pedestrians or cars. The culvert and concrete model today is contributing to the sewage overflows and another kind of environmental disaster. Building those giant storage tanks is only the first step.

    Let’s rebuild smarter streets that work for both pedestrians and cars. Can anyone look at the pictures of the old Cascade Park and not say they were incredibly cool and added to the quality of life here?

    Drew | Feb 2, 2012 | New Comment
  18. This is why I love this site -- I clicked on the link of the Minnesota Digital Library that hbh1 offered and explored a little. I clicked on the Excelsior-Lake Historical Society and whoosh! Talk about memories! I’ll bet I was no bigger than a little peanut when I sat in a stroller at the Amusement Park pictured on the site. Sure enough, called mom and confirmed that we would go there when I was very young (I say that because the park closed in 1974).

    heysme | Feb 3, 2012 | New Comment
  19. I love old pics for the people. I always feel like I’m in the last scene of The Shining when I look at them. See what I found when I checked out HBH1′s posted pic above. Standing on top of Clark House in the pic. Flag blurry, she is motionless.

    baci | Feb 3, 2012 | New Comment
  20. Yeah, right. She freaked me out.

    adam | Feb 3, 2012 | New Comment
  21. Indeed, duluth14. I knew about the floods that happened in the 70s. However, it seems like federal funding for highway construction ultimately drove the nails into the coffin of Cascade Park. While highways and parking lots do enhance personal mobility for those who can afford to drive, they almost always come at the expense of community.

    Codie | Feb 3, 2012 | New Comment
  22. I can’t say I disagree with you there, Codie.

    duluth14 | Feb 3, 2012 | New Comment
  23. Creepy old pic!

    BadCat! | Feb 3, 2012 | New Comment
  24. That creepy girl on the roof is Lulu, a descendant of French trappers. She is pregnant by a certain Mr. Moore of Buffalo, NY, and has been writing to him, without answer for three months now. She has lost hope that he will be the gentleman he claimed to be when he bedded her in the corner suite of the Clark House one cold December night. Is he like so many of the smartly-dressed adventurers stepping off the ships in the harbor, who forget their staid lives back home in other ports for the sake of a wide-eyed maid from the forest?

    This photo, which she knows will be made into a postcard, will be her last ditch effort at contacting Mr. Moore. He is married, you see, to a prim, stiff-corseted lady from one of the leading families of Buffalo. Unlike some of the other letters Lulu has sent Mr. Moore, Mrs. Moore will miss intercepting this one. It will be snatched up by Mr. Moore and hidden in the locked bottom drawer of his oak desk, where it will yellow and fade, her face accusing and righteous.

    As he nears his deathbed some years later, Mr. Moore will pull it out with a shaking hand, summon his unwilling gardener and wife as witnesses, and write a new will that leaves $10,000 to Lulu, equal to the amount he leaves to Mrs. Moore. What he doesn’t know is that Lulu doesn’t care for his money. She threw herself into the canal soon after giving birth to their daughter, who has grown up alone in the St. Joseph’s home.

    Poor Josephine. Will the scruffy probate lawyer from Buffalo find her with her fortune before she herself is faced with the prospects of single girls’ “boarding houses” down by the harbor?

    hbh1 | Feb 4, 2012 | New Comment
  25. p.s. There was a Lulu, who was a descendant of French trappers. She did have an affair with the married Mr. Moore of Buffalo, who did have a midnight will change that left her the $10,000, and Mr. Moore’s wife did protest the will. She did have a child.

    But! I don’t know how she died, and the date of the Clark House photo is way off, so I’m a big fat liar.

    hbh1 | Feb 5, 2012 | New Comment
  26. A cold snap had settled in, Henry tugged at his collar trying to create a barrier to the cold. It was a futile attempt to gain some foot hold of comfort in his new life. Having just moved from Buffalo, NY to the growing city of Duluth, he knew he had to either learn to thrive, or succumb to the frigid tedium of life in the Zenith City. Brought to this stark and beautiful landscape by employment, an appointment as bookkeeper and clerk for the wealthy Hartley family, he was resolved to make the best of this first foray into adult and independent life. Leaving behind his widowed mother, Mrs. Moore of Bailey-Kensignton, after his recent graduation from State University he held deep within him a trepidation, an anxious weight he could not identify.

    The trip had been taxing, Henry’s health had always been fragile, and the stress of coaching it across from Chicago in an ancient rail car packed with foreigners had left it’s pale mark on his brow. Luckily the fires at either end of the great hall of the train depot were blazing, a thumb in the frostbit nose of the cruel winter winds thrashing the brick outside. As he was not an immigrant, he could move from the train platform to the great hall without scrutiny, unlike the un-washed throngs of Irish and Italians who were forced into the chilled depths of the depot’s immigrant room to begin their new life as laborers and servants. Henry thought to himself, servitude is not restricted to the servants. No matter our station in life, we must all serve a master, perhaps even fate itself.

    “Moore, Henry …” mumbled the train station postmaster, his brogue as thick as oatmeal, “I git one letter for ye boy.” Gnarled fingers offered a stiff white envelope. It was addressed to Henry, from his long retired family gardener. It began with an admonition “We must all play with the hands we’re dealt.”

    baci | Feb 6, 2012 | New Comment
  27. baci | Feb 6, 2012 | New Comment

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