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More thoughts on Duluth neighborhoods

All of the recent postings have reignited my interest in our city’s neighborhoods. Their unique aspects are really interesting. And there are so many things I still don’t know, even after living here for 20+ years.

For instance, I lived here for 15 years before I ever saw the Granitoid Park, which commemorates the first quasi-cement roads in the State of Minnesota. Yes, those original roads are still here, which is so neat! I found out that they look like cobblestone because the horses could walk more easily on these types of roads in winter. Anyway, this monument is behind Woodland Middle School at Irving Place and Seventh Street, and the actual Granitoid paves Seventh Street and surrounding driveways/streets.

Along this road, there are some stunning old homes from the turn of the past century. Most are very well maintained, with big, huge trees, and are beautiful to see.

Please post if there is something particularly historical/unique/neat about your neighborhood.

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23 Comment(s)

  1. This is a bit of a threadjack, but it’s an issue I keep thinking about.

    The paving on that stretch of “Granitoid” street has been there since 1911?

    Why isn’t every inch of street in this city paved with the same stuff?

    The Big E | Jan 15, 2014 | New Comment
  2. I’ve lived in Hunters Park for ten years, and done a lot of reading on it and a lot of walking it, since I have had rather demanding dogs for the last five of those years.

    The Hunters and Macfarlanes, who platted and founded the neighborhood were very intent on creating a sort of gentleman farmer atmosphere, and this is reflected all over if you can look around and imagine the houses built post 1925 don’t exist. There were big manicured lawns and it looked very idyllic. Lots of people had a cow or two, and some of the outbuildings that remain on the old estates still have stalls for them.

    The streets are almost all named for Scots people and places (with a few highbrow colleges thrown in to inspire the children, I guess), usually with a connection to either the Macfarlanes or Hunters, whose families lived here, along with a whole lot of Who’s Who of Early Duluth names. (The women’s first name streets are for the Macfarlane and Hunter women. I’ll be writing an article on them for Zenith City Online down the pike.) Looking at early directories really gives you a sense that these guys all knew each other and you can almost imagine them doffing their top hats at the streetcar stops, and their children all popping into the McGhie store (which was in the Snow White building, which is now the casket shop and flower shop etc.). I have seen the old account register of McGhie’s store and it’s really cool to see the names of all the children of those big local names signing for penny candy and suchlike.

    Carol Bly grew up on my street, and wrote a small book about it: An Adolescent’s Christmas. I have a half-assed fantasy of getting the name (Butte) changed back to its originally intended “Bute”--in part because it annoys me that there is no butte here, and it isn’t for the town in Montana, and because I encounter way too many people who think I live on “Butt” Street. argh. (I have encountered some skepticism on this point, but original plats by the developers clearly spelt it Bute--Bute was a very popular Scots vacation island during Victorian times, and there’s little doubt the Hunters included it as a Scots name they were familiar with.)

    hbh1 | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  3. Big E — the downside to Granitoid is that it’s VERY slippery once ice freezes to it. I don’t know why horses found it so great; cars do not.

    hbh1 — I love that building on the corner of Woodland and Oxford. Do you know why it was originally called the Snow White building? That is intriguing.

    emmadogs | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  4. hbh1 | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  5. I own and live in the childhood home of Henrietta Music, wife of Lorenzo Music. In addition to being married to Garfield, she also co-wrote the iconic theme to the Bob Newhart Show, and co-starred with Lorenzo in The Lorenzo and Henrietta Music Show, a syndicated daytime talk show that aired in the mid-1970s.

    Of course, if you walk down my street, our house doesn’t stand out in any way from the others, but I like knowing there’s something a little bit special about its history.

    Barrett Chase | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  6. Barrett, that is really cool. Your predecessor wrote for one of the best shows ever (and also, ultimately, for one of the best drinking games ever, “Hi, Bob”).

    I like that her husband was the voice of the Crash Test Dummy guy. I wish I had that on my resume.

    emmadogs | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  7. I should add that my very favorite aspect of my neighborhood is Vermilion Road (formerly, the Vermillion Trail), which is so old we don’t know how old it is. The road was built by George Stuntz after the Gold Rush of 1865 on a former Ojibwe trail to the lakes on the Iron Range, which was probably a Dakota trail before that and on back to the Stone Age and the glaciers… so giving some room for glacier melt and draining the swamps…. 5000 years old?

    hbh1 | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  8. When I lived in Woodland, I used to get a kick out of how all the streets are named after other towns in MN.

    emmadogs | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  9. hbh1, I just followed up and see that gold was found in Lake Vermilion at that time. I had no idea there was a Gold Rush here.

    emmadogs | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  10. Emmadogs, please visit us at Zenith City Online and consider subscribing (it’s free!); I think it’s right up your alley.

    Tony D. | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  11. I know I’ve posted this on PDD before, but I can’t find the old discussion about it. This map was included in the abstract when we bought our house. Date must be about 1927 according to the other papers that were with it. Indiana Ave would be the current 19th ave E, Oregon would be 21st Ave E, and Woodland Ave did not exist yet but now joins 4th street between blocks 10 and 8. Number streets are the same.

    See a bigger version here

    brian | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  12. The post Brian was looking for is …

    Duluth 1865

    Paul Lundgren | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  13. Thank you Mr. Lundgren.

    brian | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  14. All the avenues from 15th Avenue East to 39th Avenue East used to have different names, until they were changed by ordinance June 14, 1892:

    “The Common Council of the City of Duluth do Ordain: Names of Avenues Changed. Section 1. That the names of all avenues east of Fourteenth avenue east in the city of Duluth be dispensed with and that said avenues be numbered in the following manner, to wit:
    New York Ave -15th Ave E
    Pennsylvania Ave-16th Ave E
    Maryland Ave-17th Ave E
    Ohio Avenue-18th Ave E
    Indiana Ave-19th Ave E
    Missouri Ave-20th Ave E
    Oregon Ave-21st Ave E
    Montana Ave-22nd Ave E
    California Ave-23rd Ave E
    Virginia Ave-24th Ave E
    Dakota Ave-25th Ave E
    Kentucky Ave-26th Ave E
    Massachusetts Ave-27th Ave E
    Connecticut Ave-28th Ave E
    Delaware and St. Louis ave-29th Ave E
    Idaho and Superior Ave-30th Ave E
    California and St. Marie Ave-31st Ave E
    Georgia and Michigan ave-32nd ave e
    Wisconsin and Mackinaw Ave.-33rd Ave. E
    Alabama and Claire ave-34th ave e
    Erie ave-36th Ave E
    Niagara Ave-37th Ave E
    Ontario Ave-38th Ave E
    St. Lawrence Ave-39th Ave E

    hbh1 | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  15. Your map, Brian, based on what I’ve seen (lots and lots of plat maps) is a probably a mimeograph copy of the original plat map, which is why it would have had the old names on it.

    hbh1 | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  16. Tony D, your website is really interesting, and you’re right, I should subscribe.

    I followed Paul’s link, so now my question is: what did Park Point and other ‘neighborhoods’ look like when the Ojibwe and others lived here before and during the city of Duluth’s founding? Could you suggest a link or book regarding how these earlier populations survived this harsh cold?

    emmadogs | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  17. Yep, the map is a copy. There are original papers as old as 1889 in this envelope of stuff. There are several references in the papers to “Section Fourteen (14) Township Fifty (50) Range Fourteen (14), now know as the Highland Park addition to Duluth” ”

    Our house was built in 1909, and it appears that in 1908, “Linus Svenson and Ella, his wife” sold the land to George W. Buck for $500. As far as I can tell, our house cost $3000.

    brian | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  18. Emma, I don’t know about a book, but from what I’ve seen in pictures and descriptions, Duluth was Big Trees up to the Shore. Ojibwe portaged over the sandbar that was Minnesota Point, had a village out there on the point, but probably that camp was not for year-round. Had a more permanent village down at Fond du Lac. A canoe pull-out point also on Rice’s Point. It was alternately swamp and Big Pines. Then when the Treaty was signed and white people could legally move in, it was CUT ALL THE TREES pretty much as soon as possible. Within 10-20 years (1854 was the treaty, and legit non-fur trader types started arriving in 1857), the hillsides up to the crest of the hills were denuded, and it was all mud and rocks. For a really long time, pictures of Duluth are pretty much bare of old trees. Mud streets, and no trees, and lots of rocks. We probably have more trees now than there’s been here in 150 years.

    All the histories I’ve read on the Ojibwe are really old and really racist. You have to read them with a whole lot of tolerance for crazy. I wouldn’t recommend any of them.

    hbh1 | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  19. Brian, George W. Buck was a local big-wig Masonic dude, principal of Duluth High School circa 1909, prominent member of the Duluth Real Estate Exchange (Co-owner of Stryker, Manley and Buck, who platted and owned LOTS of Duluth property), and a Republican activist (ran against Chester Congdon for state office and lost). He also had mining investments and was the VP/publisher of the Duluth Evening Herald.

    hbh1 | Jan 16, 2014 | New Comment
  20. Wow, hbh, where do you find stuff like that? I’d love to see photos of the houses around here. It’s pretty dense now, I’ve always wondered how many houses were here the first few years things were built.

    brian | Jan 17, 2014 | New Comment
  21. Brian, did you just ask that to give Zenith City a plug? If so, thanks.

    Heidi finds that stuff while researching for Zenith City, where she writes a monthly column about place names, features stories, and is at work on at least two books. And it has a big ol’ free public archive with all sorts of information about the history of Duluth, Western Lake Superior, and Minnesota’s Arrowhead—biography, development, architecture, parks & landmarks, industry, culture, myths & notorious tales, the North Shore, the Arrowhead, Superior & the South Shore, and more—and growing.

    Most of what is now Duluth—from about Rice’s Point to Endion, Minnesota Point north of Oatka beach to what is now Skyline Pkwy (much of it, anyway)—was clearcut from about 1868–1873, during the flurry of activity and population boom surrounding the construction of the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad. Following the development of townships and neighborhoods after about 1885 provides a better idea of when things were cleared: (Actually the introduction of “Lost Duluth.”)

    And Heidi’s right, Emmadogs: early writing about American Indians in earlier histories are written from the perspective of white guys who grew up in the 19th century. The book “Sketches of the Past,” available at the DPL, contains an essay by Tim Roufs titles “Early Indian Life in the Lake Superior Region,” written in 1976, that takes a much more academic approach to the topic.

    Tony D. | Jan 17, 2014 | New Comment
  22. Tony, no, I didn’t, but you’re welcome. I knew hbh researches and writes for you, but never expected to get specifics about the guy that built the house we live in. Within an hour or so. At night. I thought maybe she had piles of microfiche and one of those machines in her living room.

    brian | Jan 17, 2014 | New Comment
  23. Brian, the days of needing microfiche and a machine are thankfully (mostly) behind us when it comes to things that happened before 1930, and a couple specific databases and I are now very well acquainted.

    hbh1 | Jan 17, 2014 | New Comment

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