A Zenith City Ballad

I am studying abroad in Rotterdam, Netherlands via UMD. Today I missed Duluth a little more than normal and wrote a piece for my own blog, but I wanted to share it with you all because the PDD community inspired it.

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The website PerfectDuluthDay.com is a blog dedicated to any and all things related to Duluth, Minnesota and the surrounding area. Perfect Duluth Day (PDD) has a small staff which manages the site, writes reviews for local businesses, and updates the local event calendar. Most of the sites content is user generated; spanning from photographs of Brighton beach, to reviews of the recently opened OMC Smokehouse restaurant, to inquiries of the origins of a remarkably plain looking brick pillar capped with a green pyramid roof.

Posts resembling the last, querying the public for details about obscure, very forgettable artifacts and buildings is not uncommon on PDD. To me, it’s no wonder why there is such a deep interest in these local relics. In fact I share the communities curiosity to a level which would seem odd if it was directed at most any other place I have been. The legendary saga and limitless lore surrounding the Duluth area is absolutely unparalleled.

Duluth was once lauded as the center of the visible universe, an edenic place, “Duluth! The word fell upon my ear with peculiar and indescribable charm, like the gentle murmur of a low fountain stealing forth in the midst of roses, or the soft, sweet accents of an angel’s whisper in the bright, joyous dream of sleeping innocence. Duluth! ’Twas the name for which my soul had panted for years, as the hart panteth for the water brooks.” said the generous Kentucky senator Proctor Knott in an 1871 congressional session.

The city had the most millionaires per capita of any place on earth at the turn of the 19th century.

The largest lake on earth guides its shores to a corner which marks Lake Superior’s most western point and the location of the divine city of Duluth, thus making its position immediately discernible on most any world map.

The twin ports harbor is the most-inland seaway on earth.

Duluth’s nickname is “The Zenith City”. Zenith can mean the highest state/culmination, or in astronomy it is an imaginary point directly above an observer of the heavens.

Those who embrace the novel character of Duluth and bare witness to the awesome power of a November gale whipping up Gitchi-Gami into a nightmarish force unleashing 15 foot waves over the abandoned cribs, and rises early to spot the sea smoke walling off the lake’s edge with an imperceptibly deep galaxy of steam, and takes a pensive walk through Amity creek in autumn, positively become spiritually entwined with terrain. The heavenly grandeur of the area demands of its paramours exploration and identification to a degree that approaches religious dedication.

The brick pillar capped with a green pyramid roof from the blog Perfect Duluth Day was identified by a user with a picture from 1995 and someone discovered on google maps that in 2012 road construction crews removed a number identical pillars that once lined west superior street by about four per block hosting signage for local businesses.

The compulsion to celebrate the seemingly mundane develops from the truly unique history and position of the city. The jewels of Duluth are mostly unbeknownst to folks outside of the area, this compounds our intrigue in the way that children relish the hidden in haunts in their neighborhood.

If Duluth once hosted the most millionaires per capita on earth, could there be lost treasure? A subterranean speakeasy? For those of us enveloped in the area’s enchantment; it’s within the realm of possibility.

Duluth is more zenith than city.

Dylankh.com: A Zenith City Ballad

1 Comment

Matthijs

about 6 years ago

I'm from Duluth but live  in the Netherlands now, just south of Utrecht. You're more than welcome to borrow my copy of Don Ness' Hillsider if you think it might help with the homesickness (and if you read Dutch, you can get the Minnesota Trilogy from your local library).  But I suppose if you are in Rotterdam, the easiest thing to do for homesickness might be to take a walk down to their Aerial Lift Bridge clone.

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