Matthew James Posts

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #15: Duluth’s Sister Cities – Växjö, Sweden

Växjö, Sweden. Photo based on an interpretation of aerial imagery by Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Växjö – pronounced Vequa according to the YouTube videos I watched — has been Duluth’s sister city since 1987. With a population of 80,000, it’s approximately the size of Duluth. Also like Duluth, it has a significant student population, with Linnaeus University just outside the city center. In 1991, Växjö became the first city in the world to set a goal of becoming fossil fuel-free. In 2007, it won the Sustainable Energy Europe Award for being the greenest community in the EU.

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #14: Duluth’s Sister Cities – Rania, Iraqi-Kurdistan

Rania, Iraqi-Kurdistan. Photo based on an interpretation of aerial imagery by Microsoft Flight Simulator.

The next of Duluth’s sister cities in this challenge series is its most recent. Rania officially became Duluth’s fifth sister in November 2015. According to the webpage on Duluth’s sister cities, Rania is located in a partially autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Iraq near Lake Dukan. With a population of 95,000, it is about the same size as Duluth. Exchange activities have included a visiting professor from Rania at the University of Minnesota Duluth and a visit to Rania by a Duluth choir group.

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #13: Duluth’s Sister Cities – Ohara Isumi, Japan

The bell given to Duluth by Ohara. Photo by Matthew James.

Duluth has five sister cities. The next five Geoguessr challenges will take a look at them one by one. The first one in this mini-series has what I consider to be the most interesting story: Ohara, Japan.

The most prestigious flagpole in Duluth. Or perhaps anywhere.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument. (Photo by Matthew James)

A few weeks ago a postcard of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument appeared on Perfect Duluth Day that included the text “by the noted sculptor Paul W. Bartlett of Paris.” That didn’t seem like a particularly French name to me so I decided to see if he was actually a noted sculptor and actually from Paris. Both counts proved accurate.

Bartlett was from Connecticut, but grew up in France and spent a considerable amount of time in Paris. But Bartlett only designed the statue in front of the monument. The architect Cass Gilbert designed the base that supports the flagpole. And both of these people gained considerable attention during their respective careers. Their most prominent works are within a few minutes walk of each other in Washington D.C. And when I learned this, I was attending a conference in Washington D.C., so I paid a visit to those works.

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #12: Caribou Coffee at home, across the country and around the world

The first Caribou Coffee in Edina, Minnesota, now closed. (Photo by Bobak Ha’Eri, 2011 CC-By-SA-3.0)

The first Caribou Coffee opened in Edina, Minnesota, in 1992. Last December, it closed. But there are still plenty of other Caribou Coffee locations to visit. Geoguessr Challenge #12 examines some of these other locations in three separate games. The first draws from the 302 remaining Caribou Coffees in Minnesota, selecting five locations in northern Minnesota (defined as any place at or above Highway 2).

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #11: Lift Bridges


De Hef in Rotterdam carried trains until a tunnel opened in 1993. It is a now a national monument. Photo by the author.

As the principle symbol of Duluth, writing on the Aerial Lift Bridge often focuses on its uniqueness. Because it started as a transfer bridge, the top span makes it unusual for a lift bridge. But lift bridges themselves are not so unusual. Wikipedia lists 137 of them in the world.

PDD Geoguessr #10: Northern Minnesota in Atlas Obscura

Devil’s Kettle, a location featured in Atlas Obscura. Photo by the author.

This challenge provides the opportunity to go on a road trip without leaving the warmth of your house. Billing itself as “the definitive guide to the world’s hidden wonders,” the website Atlas Obscura lists user-supplied travel destinations that the standard guidebooks usually omit. The site focuses in particular on unusual museums, folk art, natural wonders and memorials to otherwise forgotten history.

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #9: Duluth, Georgia

References to Duluth in the media are a regular feature on Perfect Duluth Day. But for every reference that does not include the state name, many are left with a lingering doubt about whether the reference is really about Duluth, Minnesota, or Duluth, Georgia, a city outside of Atlanta with about one third of the Minnesota city’s population.

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #8: Midnight Mass in the Twin Ports

Cropped photo of a Christmas Eve service by Patrick Sweeney CC BY-SA 2.0

As this Sunday Geoguessr challenge is appearing on Christmas Eve, a topical theme seemed appropriate. I thought finding five local churches with midnight services would be a rather simple map to put together. It was not.

The Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall (and Rise and Fall?) of Downtown Duluth’s Fifth Avenue West

Looking down Fifth Avenue West toward Duluth’s Spalding Hotel in 1889. University of Minnesota Duluth, Kathryn A. Martin Library, Northeast Minnesota Historical Collections

A few weeks ago, David Beard wrote a post on the future of the plaza next to the Ordean Building, noting plans for it to be sold to a private developer in conjunction with a future housing project. I recently wrote a rather long post about Gunnar Birkerts, the architect of the Duluth Public Library, and because his firm also designed the plaza, I ended up with enough information about this project that I thought it might be worthy of a follow-up post on the history of the Fifth Avenue Mall, a name so forgotten that a 2015 Perfect Duluth Day post referencing the mall clarifies that the word ‘mall’ as used here is “not about a shopping mall, but instead something like the decorative median with trees that stands in the middle of the avenue today.”

Superior Street 1963/2023 – Part Two: Change

The Providence Building, 332 West Superior Street, 11:11 a.m.

The first post in this series looked at locations along Superior Street that have gone largely unchanged over the past 60 years. This set of 10 photos looks at locations where the difference between 1963 and 2023 are a bit more evident. In some cases, that is because of major developments like the Gateway Renewal Program, the Holiday Center, the Skywalk system or the I-35 extension. In other instances, it is simply because at some point the building acquired a new façade.

Superior Street 1963/2023 – Part One: Continuity

In 1963 an unknown photographer systematically photographed Superior Street, capturing downtown buildings and businesses on both sides. Ninety-five of these images have been preserved on the Minnesota Reflections website.

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #7: Downtown on the Iron Range

W.F. Cannon (USGS)

As enough people played the original Geoguessr challenge series of six games for it to continue as a regular series, new Geoguessr challenges will now appear twice a month on Sundays, at least for the time being, so if you have any ideas for what you might like to see in the future, please share in the comments. As always, an overview of how the game is played appears at the end of this post.

PDD Geoguessr Challenges #5 and #6: Bookstores and Hidden Landmarks

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #5: Independent Booksellers of Northern Minnesota

When the days get shorter and the nights get colder, curling up on the couch with a good book becomes one of the best ways to spend an afternoon. But first you have to find yourself a good book. This GeoGuessr Challenge is all about independent bookstores in Northern Minnesota. And for the purposes of this challenge, Northern Minnesota is any city or town at or above Highway 2.

PDD Geoguessr Challenges #3 and #4: North Shore State Parks and Duluth Neighborhoods

If you missed the post introducing PDD Geoguessr Challenges, the concept and rules are summarized at the end of this post. That first post had links for two somewhat standard challenges. In this second post, the challenges get a little bit more complicated just to show the different ways Geoguessr games can work.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!