Matthew James Posts

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.

Introducing Perfect Duluth Day Geoguessr Challenges

GeoGuessr is an online game that challenges people to locate specific places in the world based on the environmental cues of Streetview. The mechanics are rather simple — you move around a Streetview environment stripped of all its informational overlays looking for clues that indicate where you are. Once you think you know, you mark the spot of your original starting location on the inset map. The closer you are, the more points you get. A game consists of five locations.

Gunnar Birkerts and Intuitive Synthesis: The Place of the Duluth Public Library in the History of Modern Architecture

Duluth Public Library in the November 1980 issue of Architectural Record.

Last month, an article appeared in the Duluth News Tribune about the decision to demolish the Duluth Public Library and replace it with something smaller in a shared building. The reasons provided for demolition instead of restoration mostly involve challenges to reprogramming and subdivision created by structural pillars, expensive building systems like insulation in serious need of replacement, and other issues related to years of deferred maintenance.

Duluth Photos Featured on Twitter’s “Cars Destroyed Our Cities”

A friend let me know that Duluth recently appeared on Twitter’s Cars.Destroyed.Our.Cities (you might need to log in to see the Tweet; Twitter is undergoing some changes), an account that shows how the addition or removal of car infrastructure can dramatically change the urban environment.

The Remnants of Daniel Greysolon’s 17th Century Childhood

In two previous posts, I described how to get to the hometown of our city’s namesake, Daniel Greysolon Sieur Du Luth, and wrote about visiting his childhood home. This final post in the series shows some of the places Daniel Greysolon would have almost certainly been familiar with during his youth in the French town of St.-Germain-Laval. It concludes with a few of the more modern sites of the town.

Dinner at Daniel Greysolon Sieur du Luth’s House

A couple of weeks ago I posted an explanation of how to get to Saint-Germain-Laval, France, the hometown of Daniel Greysolon Sieur du Luth, the person after whom the city of Duluth is named. I was not entirely sure if my own trip there would happen. It did, and that post has now been updated with more accurate information and a few explanatory photos for anyone in the future who might be interested in visiting.

The Hometown of Daniel Greysolon Sieur du Lhut: A Travel Guide

Part 1: Background

About five years ago I came across the article Du Luth’s Birthplace: A Footnote to History. In 1966, the author visited the French village where Duluth’s namesake was born and documented the few traces of him that remained. The article is well researched (all the quotes from Sieur du Lhut used here are taken from it) but the images are low resolution scans of black and white photos taken more than 50 years ago. I wanted to see more of what the place actually looks like.

Mostly auto-colorized photos of Duluth and Northern Minnesota

During the pandemic, I colorized six early Duluth photos, which was absurdly time consuming but seemed like as good of a way as any to spend some evenings inside. A friend of mine recently informed me that Adobe Photoshop now has a tool that will colorize photos automatically with far better results than my drawing over pixels method. He was somewhat correct.

Duluth Reimagined: Editing Photos with AI

Previously I posted some AI generated images that could plausibly be of Duluth but it was difficult to create images that were distinctly Duluth. The absurd specificity of Jim Richardson’s interactions with ChatGPT inspired me to try again but with a different process.

Seven AI-generated poems about Duluth, written by ChatGPT and illustrated by Dall-e 2

AI image prompt: a Japanese woodblock print of a large lake in a storm with a city on a tree covered hill in the background and seagulls in the sky

ChatGPT prompt: Write a haiku about Duluth

Duluth by the shore
The waves crash and the gulls cry
Nature’s symphony

Photos of an Empty Skywalk

The Duluth News Tribune recently published an article about the Downtown Task Force’s recommendations to improve conditions in downtown. This summer, I spent some time walking through the Skywalk system and was a bit shocked by how empty it was. The summer might not be the most popular time to use the Skywalk, but it wasn’t just the absence of people. So many of the shops that I remembered were gone. I didn’t intend to make a themed photo series about this, but I had my camera and kept turning a corner to find another impossibly long, completely empty hallway.

Creating Duluth-Themed Art with AI

A Van Gogh style painting of a 1920s cargo train traveling on a winter night though an evergreen forest next to a huge blue lake with the aurora borealis in the night sky.

DALL-E is an online tool that uses machine learning to generate digital images from plain English text descriptions. You type a description of something real or imaginary and the program does its best to create a unique image based on that description. After some time on a waitlist, I recently received an invite that allows me to create and download a limited number of artificial intelligence generated images per month. This came at a good time, as I recently found a watercolor print of the Duluth hillside in a Lincoln Park shop that I liked quite a bit but could not afford. I decided to use some of my AI image credits to see if I could get the automated system to produce Duluth art of at least somewhat comparable quality. In the examples that follow, I describe this process, showing what worked and what did not. The captions of each picture show the text query that generated the image.