Canal Park souvenir invites tourists to envision a lift bridge over the Mississippi

Some years ago, I had a Duluth nameplate hanging from the back of my bicycle, which I suppose is why I impulsively bought another when I saw it recently in a Canal Park souvenir shop. I vaguely remember the one I had purchased in my younger years having a generic cityscape and not actually showing Duluth.

This one seemed no different, and might even be the same design, but this time I noticed that the building on the far left had a rather specific architecture. Checking with a group of skyscraper-obsessed friends led me to a conclusion that I should have reached myself: this Duluth souvenir depicts the skyline of St. Paul.

St. Paul skyline photo, altered by cropping and filtering, from Carl Clifford, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Comparing the souvenir with a photo of St. Paul shows that while the perspective of the illustration isn’t entirely accurate, the general depiction of St. Paul’s architecture is. The red arrow connects the identical angled tops of Wells Fargo Place, the yellow box shows the distinctive red spires of the Landmark Center, and the purple box surrounds a quite well-matching cluster of buildings around the CenturyLink towers.

It’s unclear how long tourists coming to Duluth, many likely from St. Paul, have been buying these Duluth souvenirs that provide them with a reminder of St. Paul, but the West Publishing buildings, shown in the orange box, were demolished in 2016, so it’s probably been for some years now. I’m not always up to date on development projects, so there is always the possibility these are leftover stock from a plan to rebrand St. Paul as the new Duluth by building a lift bridge over the Mississippi River. That seems like as plausible of an explanation as any for why someone would superimpose a Duluth landmark over the St. Paul skyline.

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