Duluth’s Goat Hill Neighborhood

Does anyone know about the history of West Duluth’s “Goat Hill” area or how it got that name?



about 14 years ago

The Italians who lived east of there nick-named it Goat Hill on account of how steep it is -- you have to be a goat to climb up and down that street everyday!


about 14 years ago

Thanks for the explanation Tim!  Never knew that.

Bad Cat!

about 14 years ago

There's a Goat Hill?

Barrett Chase

about 14 years ago

Also, it's not in West Duluth, but let's not get into that again.

year of glad

about 14 years ago

It's around lower Piedmont/Central Park.


about 14 years ago

I always thought Goat Hill was just west of Mesaba. Tim, I heard Italians lived there, and Goat Hill was a bastardization of the more insulting "Dago Hill." I like your explanation MUCH better!


about 14 years ago

Barrett, you brought it up. So let's f'en go there!


about 14 years ago

In my youth it was an area where you could get weed and thus the nickname "Hippie Hill."


about 14 years ago

Vicarious... not again, please. I don't think I can take it.


about 14 years ago

Please link me to the thread Claire. One time this old guy started telling me that I lived in the upper West End but below Piedmont but west of Enger, and by the end I was wondering if I was still in Duluth. Maybe that was Barrett?

Barrett Chase

about 14 years ago

I'm pretty sure I wasn't that "old guy," Jake. Anyway, here's a recent discussion of Duluth's neighborhood boundaries.

And of course, the City of Duluth's neighborhood map, in PDF form.


about 14 years ago

There was a farm on goat hill. Did the farm have goats?


about 14 years ago

Wait. A farm?


about 14 years ago

There is a family on Goat Hill that has goats. Fo' reals. (They also have chickens and other accoutrements of an urban farmstead).


about 14 years ago

There was an old farm. The older residents in the neighborhood told me about it. The homes in the area were built on its fields.


about 14 years ago

Is there anything written about goat hill (books, articles)? I searched Google but came up with little.


about 14 years ago

As a former Hippie, Italian and Goat Farmer (all by birth) AND Emerson resident (by choice) I have to say I LOVE this part of town. The hillside over looking downtown is full of ruins and mystery, old dumps with broken plates and hobo houses. This area typifies Duluth for me.


about 14 years ago

A few years ago I met a person who at that time was in her mid-90s and had lived on Goat Hill most of her life. When she was about 6 her family moved from Italy to Goat Hill. She told me many things about this area. She said the name goes back many years when a family who lived there kept a goat because one of their children was allergic to cow's milk.
While many Italians did live there so did many Danish and Swedish people. A number of those houses have been torn down.

She remembers when draft horses would pull the snowploughs around those difficult streets in the winters.

Hall-of-fame baseball player Joe DiMaggio, (before he married Marilyn Monroe), would stay on Goat Hill with a boxer/friend, when he'd be in Duluth visiting his future wife, the Hollywood film actress, Dorothy (Olson) Arnold, who grew up on Goat Hill.

All this is according to someone who'd lived there for over 80 years.

Paul Lundgren

about 14 years ago

The Olson family did not live on Goat Hill. They lived at 2833 W. Third St., which is about a block from Harrison Park. All accounts I've read indicate that DiMaggio stayed at the Olson's when he was in town, but I wouldn't totally rule out that there was a boxer friend on Goat Hill.

Dorothy's sister, Joyce, was in Duluth last summer and signed for me a copy of her book Dorothy Arnold: Joe DiMaggio's First Wife, from which I will share this explicit excerpt detailing the time Dorothy brought her baseball star husband to visit Joyce and her husband Les at their home in Rice Lake, Wisconsin:

"That very night, our small apartment was the scene of an intimate act that was far from private. Dorothy and Joe had their own room to sleep in, but all the rest of the family sleeping in the dormitory could hear every sound that the couple made. "Grandpa Olson was particularly embarrassed to be eavesdropping. I had never before noticed how thin our walls were."
Info about DiMaggio's 1941 visit to Duluth, specifically to the ballpark later to be known as Wade Stadium, can be read in the comments to the "Where in Duluth?" post from April.


about 14 years ago

That's interesting, Paul. Any chance you could let me in on the secret as to where you find those old newspaper clippings? I'd love to do a little research on Goat Hill.

Paul Lundgren

about 14 years ago

Ancient PDD secret. 

OK, not really. The Duluth Public Library has gobs of old newspapers on microfilm.

Paul Lundgren

about 14 years ago

And here's an article from the library's online NewsBank:

Upstairs, downstairs some Goat Hill families are stepping out with renewed optimism
Duluth News-Tribune 
Sunday, April 14, 1996
By Chuck Frederick

Word spread quickly across the top of Goat Hill. Four inches of snow coming. "That's a lot of snow for up here,'' said Walt Macintosh.

The Duluth neighborhood's steep streets are tough enough to drive in good weather. With snow on the way, Macintosh and his neighbors know that if they don't want to be stranded, they have to move their cars and vans near the bottom of Goat Hill.

So one by one on this blustery, soon-to-be-snowy, spring day, they each pressed a foot to the brake pedal and eased down West Fourth Street to old Piedmont Avenue. Once on West Third Street, they found parking places and then climbed 71 wobbly, wooden stairs back to their homes above.

"We're Duluth's hillbillies. Everyone else is a flatlander,'' Walt's wife, Kathy Macintosh, said with a grin. ``We have our own little city up here. It's like living on your own little mountain. I wouldn't trade it for anything."

Steep ambitions

Life can be hard on Goat Hill, a cluster of about 70 homes below Enger Tower. There are stairs to climb and friends who won't visit because of the steep hills. There also are yards littered with junk cars, vacant lots filled with garbage, houses covered by peeling paint and a lack of money to make things nicer.

But the hillside neighborhood that's so easy to dismiss while motoring off the interstate and up Piedmont Avenue isn't the run-down place it might seem. Not to the people who live there.

Most of them choose to see the neighborhood's potential -- the beautiful place it once was and again could be, the breathtaking views of the Duluth-Superior Harbor, and the few homes that have been fixed up.

Their optimism isn't unfounded. There's evidence that Goat Hill has hit bottom and is now rebounding.

The wobbly stairway that stretches in an L-shape from West Third Street to 18 1/2 Avenue West will be rebuilt this spring with $30,000 from the federal Housing and Urban Development office. The project is long overdue, residents say. Three years ago, someone actually crashed through one of the steps and was left dangling by his backpack.

Another $50,000 from HUD will help build a parking lot near the top of the hill. It'll ease congestion along narrow 18 1/2 Avenue West and maybe even make the pre-snow drives down the hill unnecessary. The lot is estimated to cost about $80,000. It's unclear when it will be built.

Other neighbors are writing grant requests to rebuild retaining walls and put in new sidewalks. Still others have begun to take it upon themselves simply to pick up garbage in vacant lots, clear away weeds and plant new pines.

"We're working on the neighborhood again," said Dan Nyquist, who lives on Fir Avenue, which is actually a stairway. A roadway probably would have been too steep.

A professional landscaper, Nyquist shuffled down a steep sidewalk one overcast morning recently. He paused occasionally to clip branches and weeds that had grown past the railing. He's one of the neighborhood's newer residents, eager to make Goat Hill a better place to live.

This summer, he plans to cut down diseased, dead and overcrowded trees in Goat Hill's Central Park. With the help of neighbors he's now trying to organize, Nyquist also hopes to repair bluestone retaining walls, weed and seed along streets, fix railings, control erosion and maybe even establish community gardens in vacant, tax-forfeited lots.

"There's a renewed attitude in this neighborhood," he said. "We're trying. It's going to take money and time and energy. But we'll get it going."

Nyquist is among a handful of Goat Hill residents who truly believe the neighborhood can resemble the neat, well-kept place it was when the main highway from the Twin Cities passed through on its way downtown.

Some skeptical

Margaret Cherro remembers those days, but is skeptical her neighborhood will ever recapture its charm.

"When we first moved here it was a beautiful spot," said Cherro, 90, who moved to Goat Hill from the Iron Range in 1916. "The lawns were like velvet carpets and everyone took such good care of their property. But then the people got old and the houses changed hands and each time they changed hands they got a little bit worse and a little bit worse. It's all deteriorated now. The neighborhood used to be so friendly. Now we don't even know who our neighbors are."

What happened in Goat Hill has happened elsewhere, Cherro said. "We all grew up during the Depression. None of us had anything. So when we grew up and had a little bit, we were so proud. We decided that our children would never live like we had to. But the problem with that is that kids today expect so much. They want everything handed to them. So when no one takes care of their property, they don't do it either.

"I still have a million-dollar view," Cherro said, "but I don't have a million-dollar neighborhood anymore."

Pam and Jim Guzzo also have a million-dollar view. But when they gaze at the neighborhood from the deck that wraps around two sides of their home, they see a place that's improving.

"Ten years ago, it was in really bad shape," said Jim, a school bus driver who bought and completely renovated his grandmother's house. "Every house was rough and in bad shape. Now, I'll bet half have been redone."

Others are still being worked on. New porches are being built. Old homes are being wrapped with new siding. And more residents are talking up their neighborhood.

Moving up

"It's like living in the country here," Kathy Macintosh said, leaning against the kitchen table in her home on top of the hill. "We escaped the city, but instead of moving out, we moved up and above it."

"And we hardly ever get robbed up here," Walt Macintosh quickly added. "A thief would be all out of breath after climbing 71 stairs. He'd be too tired to steal anything."

As best as most longtime residents can figure, Goat Hill got its nickname because goats were once raised there by an Italian family.

How many goats is a matter of debate. Margaret Cherro, 90, and a resident of Goat Hill since 1916, said there was one goat and that the Italian family needed its milk for medicinal purposes.

Laimi Linden, 84, said the family had three goats. She also said the neighborhood was nicknamed by a group of kids who had formed a baseball team in her neighborhood. They needed a name and coined the tag Goat Hill.

"On top of all that," Goat Hill resident Kathy Macintosh said, "people figure you'd have to be a goat to live on this hill. You probably do, but I sure wouldn't trade it."


about 14 years ago

Thanks Paul. That explains the name thing, sort of. I grew up on Goat Hill. It doesn't seem as connected as described in the article, but would love to see it revitalized one day. And the view is great, especially at night!

Paul Lundgren

about 14 years ago

Here's a related story from two years later:

Gardener transforms forgotten park
Duluth News-Tribune 
July 1, 1998
By Daniel Bernard

The section of the Duluth hillside beneath Enger Tower is green, but too steep and craggy to be developed. For the last half century, City Hall and the community have largely forgotten the 33-acre patch that rolls from Skyline Parkway to First Street between 14th and 17th avenues west.

But the rangy stretch of hill intrigued Dan Nyquist when he and his wife and son moved to 18th Avenue West in the Goat Hill neighborhood in 1995.

Nyquist, a Duluth native who works for the city as a gardener, noticed the slope contained choice plateaus for viewing the lake and the city, such as one overlook northeast of Second Street and 17th Avenue West. Beneath straggles of thistle, ragweed and chokeberry trees lay walking trails, one northwest of Third Street and 14th Avenue that leads to Enger.

"I called the city to find out who owned it," Nyquist said.

The city owns it, Nyquist discovered. The wooded area is a bona fide city park named "Central Park." Research showed that after the hill was clear-cut in 1880s, it was used for hiking and picnics.

In 1911, the city drew up a master plan that envisioned a wending network of manicured trails, but funding never materialized. Nyquist said records suggest the city has not maintained the area for at least 40 years. Its poplars, dogwoods and hazelnut shrubs became overgrown and diseased.

In 1995, Nyquist started pruning, weeding and culling in the woods. He planted orange lilies, purple lupines and white Shasta daisies from his own yard. Where debris-clogged streams overran trails, he rerouted them.

In 1996, Nyquist sought a Neighborhood Matching Grant from the city to spruce up Central Park some more. He was approved for $1,000 and planted 400 perennial native wildflowers, 50 shrubs and 150 trees. To the resident aspens, willows, birches and cottonwoods, he added sugar maples, red oaks, white cedars and tamaracks -- some seedlings, some 1 1/2-inches thick.

Apart from his full-time day job working at parks around the city, for Nyquist, fixing up Central Park became somewhat of a part-time second job, with occasional help from his family and neighbors. He took two weeks' vacation in May only to spend 100 hours working in the woods.

This month, the city approved a second Neighborhood Matching Grant of $3,000. Nyquist, 38, plans to plant another 400 trees and shrubs and 500 wildflowers.

Now City Gardener Tom Kasper is talking about making the area an "urban arboretum" featuring native Minnesota trees as an outdoor learning experience for school children. The city plans next year to start weeding and clearing the area regularly with help from neighbors. Even sooner, they'll erect a sign so everyone will know the wooded area has a name. Central Park remains scruffy and challenging for walkers. Kasper says it will always be "wild."

"We need more parks like this one is, which is natural," Kasper said. "Until Dan came along, the park had pretty much been completely forgotten."


about 14 years ago

This Dan Nyquist was/is quite the mover and shaker. I know that around the early 2000s, people would drive trucks up 2nd street straight into the park and drive around in circles on the scenic overlook. The city placed a huge boulder at the entrance and that put a stop to it, but you can still see tire tracks leading up there. It's a beautiful park and I know that black bear have been spotted up there.


about 14 years ago

Goat Hill's Central Park is a great place to watch the 4th of July fireworks. The park is old and was once called "Zenith Park" because of the great view.

Paul, it sounds like when my Goat Hill friend told stories about the old neighborhood, she included the hill and an area of a few blocks beyond.

I picture Goat Hill as a busy little place when more people lived there years ago.

Paul Lundgren

about 14 years ago

Speaking of Central Park, it was the subject of a "Where in Duluth?" post in June.

jan montgomery

about 13 years ago

The hills do account for the name. As to Italians living there, I'm not sure that's correct. Most Italians lived in the Emerson school area around St. Peter's Church. Goat Hill is the area below the boulevard and down in the West End area from old Piedmont -- First Street to Seventh Street. A person would have to be brave and skilled at climbing those rocky hills.


about 10 years ago

In David Ouse's book, "Forgotten Duluthians" he says the actress and one time wife of Joe DiMaggio, Dorothy Arnold, was born at 1725 West Second Street, definitely a Goat Hill address. The family may have moved off the hill later, but my Goat Hill friend, Margaret, who was from those days, told me Dorothy lived there...and DiMaggio would stay across the street, before they were married. Looks like Goat Hill had it's 15 minutes of fame.

Sandra D Carlson

about 7 years ago

My Grandfather built the house 1727 W. Second St. It's still there. My mother was born there in 1927. My parents were married in that house in 1952. My father lived "up the hill" on second, but they tore that one down years ago. They both graduated from Denfeld in 1945. I don't now about the ethnic history being mentioned. My mother was a Freeborg and my father was a Carlson. Scandinavians for sure!

Gina D

about 8 months ago

Here I am coming late to the forum. My grandparents, Rosalie and Dominic DeLuca came from Italy and settled in Duluth at 219 N. 18th Ave. W. My Uncle Angelo was allergic to cow milk so my grandparents had to give him goat milk. Naturally, with eight kids they bought the goats and that’s how Goat Hill came to be. If I stumble across a photo, because I know I have one somewhere, I’ll post it!  

From my Aunt Deanie who is 90 at the time of this post.

They called it goats hill cause the goats were up on the hills on 3rd st & 17 ave west. The boys, my brothers, would take the goats or the goat up there everyday before going to school or their paper route leave them there till they came home from school or whatever. Our dog prince would watch the goats stay there or come & go if anyone messed with them the dog would go after them. Sometimes he’d be at home & hear the goats he’d take off running up there & take care of them around 5 each evening if the boys didn’t go get them they’d come home on there own with the dog. That’s how goat hill came about. Cause of Angelo!

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