Photographer Nik Nerburn (previously on PDD) has just published a book of photos and stories following the last few years of transformation in Duluth’s West End, more recently and commonly known as Lincoln Park. We get a sneek peek at a few of the images in the book.
They’re closing down the Esmond, and I’m moving into the new Garfield Square building they’re building for us. I’ll get to stay in the neighborhood. It’s a great blessing. My mom’s been gone over 30 years. She died in 1983, the day after her birthday. I want my new apartment to be worthy of my mom coming to see it. It’s gonna be clean, ordered; smelling like somebody really knows how to cook her food. Her name? It was Rose. You never know. You can go to sleep forever, and nobody would know you’re not here anymore. It was a long process to rebuild my life. I finally seen a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
A description from Nerburn’s website:
Before it was Duluth’s most up-and-coming neighborhood, with fashionable breweries and farm-to-table restaurants, the Lincoln Park Craft District was called the West End. Although it shares the same physical geography with the Lincoln Park Craft District, it can sometimes feel like a world apart. Photographer Nik Nerburn documented several years of the neighborhood’s transformation, making portraits and recording interviews in Carr Hobbies, the Esmond Building (also known as The Seaway Hotel), Randy’s Cafe, and other once-familiar neighborhood joints. The words of neighborhood residents are woven together with dreamlike black-and-white photographs of interiors, individuals, and landscapes, recalling both the real and remembered West End of Duluth.
I was down in Maryland with my second wife, and we seen this bar that said “Karaoke Tonight”. It was called the “Hubcap and Spinner Show,” and when you got called up, they would dress you up. They dressed me up like Sonny and her like Cher. We sang “I Got You, Babe”. I’d sung in school choir, but I’d never done karaoke. I fell in love with it. We moved back to Duluth in the 90’s. You know, and things had changed from the ’70s, big time, for everywhere in Duluth. There were no jobs, and people were getting the hell out. Duluth went from 120,000 people in Duluth down to, like, 80,000 in a couple years. This neighborhood never really recovered. At the time, I used to hang out at the bar next door to Curly’s, which was called The Bedrock. There was this one gentleman running karaoke on weekends who everybody called Captain Kirk. He says to me, “Hey, wanna work Karaoke for Curly’s?” I figured, why not? Extra money! So Captain Kirk says, “Well, we gotta get you a nickname first. You’re gonna be Major Mike.” Okay. Works for me. He trained me in, and I’ve been doing it for almost 25 years. I’m a frustrated musician. I think a lot of other people are that way, too, you know? Mainly because I can’t remember the words to songs. So if I got a screen in front of me that shows me the words, I’m a happy camper. I like making people happy. It doesn’t matter if they can sing or not. I don’t care. I’ll get anybody up there.
When you walk into the Seaway, you don’t know if you’re going to smell home cooking or straight diapers. Will I miss this place? I’m not sure. At its worst point, the Seaway was the type of place where the cockroaches stole your crack rocks off your nightstand while you slept.