A problem that needs addressing

There’s something that’s confused me a bit about Duluth since I moved here (and I realize I may be the only person who has ever wondered about this).

Just about every town has a “0” point for its street addresses. In Duluth, that would be the corner of Lake and Superior, right? 1 E. Superior, 1 W. Superior, 1 N. Lake, etc. The lower the address number, the closer it is to the zero point. And in general, there are imaginary lines that spread out from that point, dividing addresses into north-south, and east-west.

That all works out well in Duluth on the main grid of streets – downtown, West End, West Duluth, Lakeside… but then it starts to get odd.

Up on Central Entrance, for example – the Rose Man shop is at 36 W. Central Entrance – 36? That far from downtown? And almost due north, Nortrax Equipment is at 3401 W. Arrowhead Road. 3401? Due north of 36? How is that possible?

There also are double-digit (i.e. very low) addresses in Woodland, just south of UMD, and on Howard Gnesen Road near Kenwood Super One. And speaking of Kenwood Super One, its address is 1316 W. Arrowhead. West? Would anyone consider that store to be on the west side of town?

I’m guessing these are quirks left over from long, long ago, as the city developed sort of piecemeal – quirks that never got resolved over the years. Maybe there are multiple “zero points” around town?



about 15 years ago

Grand Avenue is another odd one.  I mean, why isn't it Superior Street, or why isn't Superior Street Grand avenue past say 50th ave west?  In fact, why is the Hwy "London Road" in Lakeside and "Grand" out west?  

I think its because Duluthians see themselves as part of a number of different towns that are organized around neighborhoods (geographic communities SOAKED in class, sub-cultural, and maybe even ethnic identities).  This place has deeply internalized things that are to outsiders only minor geographic differences such as ... east-west, over and under the hill, cliff dweller ... and so on.  That attitude is actually represented on the street signs and addresses that you point out. 

There are other places about this size that have the same issue, some probably even have it worse.  But probably not many.  Yet another clarion call to UNITE people!


about 15 years ago

There are multiple zero points around town. The zero point for Arrowhead is Woodland Avenue. From Woodland, Arrowhead runs three blocks east and about twenty miles west. Well, maybe fifteen.

The zero point for Central Entrance is Arlington Ave.

The zero point for numbered avenues east of about 48th Avenue West is Superior Street.

West Duluth has two separate map grids that overlap and interfere with each other. The zero point for avenues from about 52nd Avenue West to 71st Avenue West is Main Street. After the zoo, the zero point becomes Grand Avenue.

Grand Avenue isn't Superior Street because Grand Avenue should be West Third Street, or vice versa. The last sad remnant of Superior Street peters out at 46th Avenue West, behind the Lighthouse for the Blind.


about 15 years ago

The reason for all the different zero points is that all those places that are "neighborhoods" now used to be all separate towns, and they all eventually merged into the size and shape of Duluth as we know it today.

...This is also why Lakeside folks got all bent out of shape about the liquor vote.  When the town of Lakeside was originally annexed to Duluth, it came with the stipulation that it would remain dry in perpetuity. (something which later became null & void due to a change in state law)

...And also why folks get bent out of shape about the "west end" vs "West Duluth" thing, 'cause it used to be the city of West Duluth, and the west end of Duluth was just that.

Paul Lundgren

about 15 years ago

A clarification to Tomasz's comment: West Duluth was a separate "village," not "city."

The village of Oneota was absorbed by the village of West Duluth in 1888. The village of West Duluth merged with the city of Duluth in 1894.


about 15 years ago

Where are you from?

Large cities in the West have logic. Take Albuquerque - everywhere is NW, SW, NE, and it's all on a grid.

Cities like Duluth grew much more organically and yes, each road has it's own scale and numbers. Or take downtown St. Paul, which in the words of Jesse Ventura, seems to have been laid out by drunk Irishmen.
You want logic, stay far, far away from the East Coast, by the way  - you ain't seen NOTHIN' yet as far as bizarre layouts.

Barrett Chase

about 15 years ago

As for Grand Avenue, as you travel west, it goes like this:

West Third Street (in the West End) --> Grand Avenue (in West Duluth) --> Commonwealth Avenue (in Gary) --> Highway 23 (in Fond du Lac).


about 15 years ago

St. Paul's streets are hella confusing. I finally had to ask a cabbie (cabbies are a wealth of info on the subject of streets) about it.

As I recall, it took him 10 minutes to explain everything in an understandable fashion after reaching our destination.


about 15 years ago

I'll hazard that your zero points are at major intersections (usually highways) that the towns developed around.  If N/S E/W doesn't fit for an intersection and/or conflicts with another one, you just name one side something different.

I've seen weirder.  There was a town we ran through (I want to say it's near Minneapolis, it may have been a suburb) that chose 1 as a grid origin.  One side of the two foot island of the same road was 1st N, the other 1st S; kind of like a mini 2 blocks in between the sides, the major intersection 6 blocks away.  We were always off by 2 blocks while going back and forth looking for an infamous small hamburger shack nearby.

God, imagine driving around Paris or London, though?


about 15 years ago

To answer one of your questions, WildGoose, London Road was originally called London Avenue, changing in the 1890s. There was property there that was bought by a "London Syndicate" for about a million dollars in 1889. In 1906, the Lakeside Club had a big meeting where John Jenswold Jr. and other neighbors complained that motorists were ruining London Road with their speedy, reckless ways. (teehee)

"'The greatest civic demonstration in the history of the city' was the Exposition of Progress and Iron Ore Golden Jubilee, held July 20-25, 1925. Arches, pylons, and statues lined London Road, John Philip Sousa's band was here, and the Great Lakes fleet of the United States Navy. The National Guard Armory, Curling Club and Amphitheatre were used for exhibits and entertainment." (MacDonald, 215)


about 15 years ago

I think at some point Grand Ave / 3rd street / etc were going to be a much bigger deal across East Duluth, too.  Look at McCulloch Street, which is 3 streets up from Superior Street.  It's much wider than its neighbors Robinson and Gladstone.  I heard somewhere McCulloch was made that wide because it was going to be a main thoroughfare, but because Northland Country Club bought the land between 36th (or whatever) and what became 40th avenue east, that didn't happen.  But McCulloch Street remained wide, and with many potholes.


about 15 years ago

Fact Check!  The lake of liquor in Lakeside is still part of state law and has not become null and void, hence the current lack of liquor in Lakeside and the vote last November.


about 15 years ago

Jelvah said "Cities like Duluth grew much more organically and yes, each road has it's own scale and numbers. Or take downtown St. Paul, which in the words of Jesse Ventura, seems to have been laid out by drunk Irishmen.

You want logic, stay far, far away from the East Coast, by the way - you ain't seen NOTHIN' yet as far as bizarre layouts."

I recently returned from a trip to London. I don't think I observed a single street that was straight for more than a quarter of a mile...there is a complete absence of a grid.

Addresses had no linear reference; for instance 291 Bayswater Road is not in reference to a "4th Street", or East or West, but only in reference to the other addresses on Bayswater Road. The address at the start of Bayswater Road was "1 Bayswater Road". Where Bayswater road ended (vaguely) a few "blocks" away, the address was 291 Bayswater Road.

This is apparently true for most addresses in London.

FUN LONDON FACTOID!! The average speed for a car in central London is 10.6 MPH.


about 15 years ago

Somebody told me that Superior Street does not end behind the Lighthouse for the Blind, as I stated earlier. Michigan Street does. When I checked it out, I found this to be true. Michigan Street ends at 46th Avenue West, behind the Lighthouse. So where does Superior Street end? 

Traveling the frontage roads eastward, it turns out that Superior Street ends by Wade Stadium, where it magically turns into Michigan Street.


about 15 years ago

On Park Point if your house is on the lake side of Minnesota Avenue and you are lucky enough to have the rear of a double-lot set your address is, surprise, on Lake Avenue. My theory is that it's all a ploy to get your pizza free when it takes them over an hour to find you.


about 15 years ago

Two comments on this thread are linked... by one of the most overlooked streets in town.

Superior Street curves and becomes Michigan Street by Wade Stadium (there is another short segment of Superior Street farther west).

That little curve, which ducks under a railroad bridge and is a block long at the very most, is actually its own street, according to signs there: Jenswold Street.

I trust that's somehow connected to the John Jenswold Jr. of London Road complaint fame (see comment above).

It has no houses, no businesses, pretty much nothing on it... a street with no addresses.

I've always kind of felt sorry for it.

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