Matthew James Posts

PDD Geoguessr #21: Hermantown

Hermantown History Center (Photo by Myotus used under CC 4.0)

When you Google Hermantown, the results are preceded by some questions people often ask about the place: Is Hermantown the same as Duluth? What is Hermantown known for?

PDD Geoguessr #20: Twin Ports Area Beaches

Park Point in the summer. (Photo by Matthew James)

With the official start of summer upon us, any upcoming day has at least the potential of becoming a beach day. But where to go? Park Point is always an option but are there more interesting alternatives?

100 Years of Intercity Highway, or Highway 61 Revisited

Highway 1 monument at 66th Avenue West and Westgate Boulevard. (Photos by David James)

A monument a couple blocks north of I-35 in the front yard of a quiet residential neighborhood commemorates the upcoming opening of Minnesota Trunk Highway No. 1. It was erected on June 13, 1924, 100 years ago today. A recent post on this site featured a photo describing a campground along this Highway, which led to a brief discussion of just what this Highway 1 was and what became of it.

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #19: Sister Cities Smörgåsbord

Duluth’s sister cities

Five of the previous six Geoguessr challenges have looked one by one at Duluth’s sister cities: Ohara Isumi, Japan; Rania, Iraqi-Kurdistan; Växjö, Sweden; Petrozavodsk, Russia; and Thunder Bay, Canada. As a Geoguessr game has five rounds, it only makes sense to conclude the series with a challenge that includes all five cities.

The Final Resting Place of Private John Matthew McGillis

Left: Private John Matthew McGillis, photo courtesy of Jasper van Kampen. Right: His burial place (Photo by Matthew James)

John Matthew McGillis, known to his family on Duluth’s Park Point as Jack, died on Christmas Day 1944, one day before the end of major fighting in the final German offensive of World War II. He wasn’t a combat soldier.

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #18: Duluth’s Sister Cities – Thunder Bay, Canada

Thunder Bay, Canada. Photo based on an interpretation of aerial imagery by Microsoft Flight Simulator.

The last of the sister cities in this series is the first. Thunder Bay was the original sister city of Duluth, a relationship that formally began in 1980. While the Twin Ports is the largest metropolitan area on Lake Superior, Thunder Bay is the largest city, with a population of 110,000.

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #17: Duluth’s Sister Cities – Petrozavodsk, Russia

Petrozavodsk, Russia. Photo based on an interpretation of aerial imagery by Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Petrozavodsk, Russia became a sister city of Duluth in 1987. With a population of 250,000, its Duluth’s largest sister city. Petrozavodsk is the capitol of the Republic of Karelia and located on the western shore of Lake Onega. Like Duluth, Petrozavodsk has a lakewalk that features art from its sister cities. In 1991, artist Rafael Consuegra won a national competition to represent Duluth in a sister cities sculpture exchange with Petrozavodsk. Below is a picture of his sculpture, The Fisherman, that I took with a disposable camera during my brief visit to the city nearly 20 years ago.

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #16: Homegrown 2024 Venues

Homegrown Music Festival starts next week with acts performing in venues across Duluth and Superior. You can read a detailed history of the festival on its website. And you can test your knowledge of this year’s festival by taking the PDD Quiz. And here you can test your knowledge of this year’s Homegrown venues by playing one of this week’s three Geoguessr challenges.

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.