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News and Current Affairs Posts

Lost incline stairway pushed as historic trail

A group of history hikers follow the old incline railway stairs down Observation Hill.

A hidden stairway, once connected to a long-gone incline rail service between Downtown Duluth and its hilltop neighborhoods, is being celebrated by an organization that would like to see it designated a historic walking trail.

The Duluth Preservation Alliance led an Observation Hill history walk on May 31 over remnants of the 126-year-old incline stairs. More than 50 people attended the event and made the steep, downhill jaunt from Skyline Drive to Superior Street.

Duluth artist Russell Gran dead at 81

Russell V. Gran, a Duluth native best known for his acrylic paintings and role as the unofficial “patriarch” of the Washington Studios Artist Cooperative, died June 14 of an apparent heart attack. He was 81.

“Endlessly curious and driven to create, his curmudgeonly exterior was merely a facade for a wonderfully humorous, sensitive and loving being,” fellow artist and friend Eric Dubnicka wrote on Facebook.

Rolph, Wilson named head brewers at Earth Rider

Earth Rider Brewery in Superior has named Allyson Rolph and Tim Wilson as lead brewers. The craft brewery, founded by Tim Nelson, is expected to launch later this year. It will service bars, restaurants and liquor stores throughout the Arrowhead region. The project was announced in February.

Duluth relay of the Current moving to full-power frequencies

Minnesota Public Radio is moving the Duluth relay of its Twin Cities album-oriented alternative music station, the Current, to full-power frequencies at 104.3 and 94.1 FM.

The switch to 104.3 is already in effect; 94.1 will be in operation later this summer.

The tower for 104.3 is in Two Harbors. Broadcasting with an effective radiated power of 50,000 watts, the signal reaches Duluth’s eastern neighborhoods, but begins to break up in the Downtown area and is marred by static in most locations southwest of Lake Avenue.

Jen Keavy, senior communications manager at MPR, said the “reach is dependent upon topography and proximity to the tower in Two Harbors, which is why we will also launch 94.1 (which is in Duluth) once technical upgrades are made. It will help cover the gaps in the Duluth area.”

MPR purchased the two stations from Red Rock Radio for $300,000 in a deal that closed May 15. Both frequencies use the call letters KZIO and were previously branded by Red Rock as 94X “pure rock.”

Zenith Bookstore opens July 1 in West Duluth

A year-long quest to launch a shop selling new and “gently used” books is almost complete. Zenith Bookstore will open for business July 1 in the former Wild West Liquor building at 318 N. Central Ave. in West Duluth. Perfect Duluth Day first reported about the store’s development in September.

Downtown Duluth’s Bullseye building sold

The two-story white brick building in Downtown Duluth occupied by the Chinese Dragon restaurant, Bullseye Silkscreen & Embroidery and Old Town Antiques was sold in March for $1.65 million according to St. Louis County records. The building sits on the corner of Superior Street and First Avenue East. The three businesses use the addresses 108, 106 and 102 E. Superior St., respectively. The building’s general address is 101 E. Michigan St.

Wabegon bar and grill has new owner

A tavern, off-sale liquor outlet and supper club in Superior Township is under new ownership. John Hartwick purchased the 85-year-old Wabegon bar and grill on April 28 and hit the ground running, only shutting down for half a day to inventory the place. Paul Vernon, who owned the Wabegon for 10 years, held a going away pig roast party the week prior.

The Wabegon is a bit of a geographical oddity. Though it’s located in Wisconsin, roads leading in are through Minnesota, and the vibe of the business is Minnesota through and through. For residents of Duluth’s Fond du Lac neighborhood, it’s the primary gathering place for food and revelry; Superior residents, on the other hand, are barely aware it exists.

Accordion repair school plans return to Duluth

The world’s largest accordion museum and education center has started plans to restore and reopen a building that served as its home more than a decade ago in Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

A World of Accordions Museum Director Helmi Harrington said earlier this week the organization will relocate an accordion repair school from current museum headquarters in Superior to its former site at 2801 W. First Street in Duluth. Harrington recently repurchased the historic church building and its adjacent parsonage out of St. Louis County foreclosure and started a tax payment plan for the property.

“Anyone who has visited our museum in Superior knows it’s crowded and our spacious building is no longer spacious,” said Harrington. “The idea for moving just the repair school to Duluth is not inexpensive, but it’s something we need to explore.”

A World of Accordions Museum is located in the Harrington Arts Center and features more than 1,300 instruments, an extensive recording library and art collection and thousands of accordion-related artifacts. Its nine-month accordion repair program accepts about 20 students annually from all over the world.

Sussex sex tower echoes West Duluth nards

The wacky news story of the week is out of the Village of Sussex in southeast Wisconsin. A contractor painted over the first three letters on a water tower and then decided it was break time. It turns out, the same thing happened at the same water town in 1996.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinal: Village of Sussex residents have heard this water tower sex joke before

Prior to either of the sex tower situations, Duluth had its own temporarily bawdy sign. When the original West Duluth Kmart location at 503 N. 50th Ave. W. was converted to become a Menards store in 1991, workers put up five letters on the side of the building before knocking off for the night. Anyone driving down 46th Avenue West or Mike Colalillo Drive could plainly see “nards” hanging high on the store’s eastern side. To my knowledge, this was never reported by media and no photos exist. But then again, someone must have taken a picture. And it’s time for that person to come forward.

Red Herring Lounge serving up food with tunes

Anna Hanson and Paul Wold

The Red Herring Lounge has made a name for itself as a music venue in Duluth and beyond. Since its inception three years ago, the bar has been serving up inventive cocktails along with a respectable list of wines and craft brews. Now it’s adding snacks and small plates to the menu.

Mystery mural found during NorShor Theatre renovation

At a May 31 news conference, Duluth Playhouse Executive & Artistic Director Christine Gradl Seitz showed off a canvas painting discovered by workers busy renovating the NorShor Theatre. The Duluth News Tribune reports the painting was “behind a suspended ceiling that was installed in 1941 when the existing Orpheum Theatre was converted into the NorShor. The grand theater’s original balcony had been concealed and transformed into a makeshift attic. But Gradl Seitz said a careful exploration of the space revealed ‘this beautiful mural, which we believe dates back to 1910, and the original Orpheum.'”

The NorShor is expected to open in early 2018; the Playhouse has a run of the musical Mamma Mia scheduled for Feb. 8-24. Renovation work is about 60 percent complete.

The theater was purchased by the Duluth Economic Development Authority in June 2010 for $2.6 million. The $30.5-million renovation began in summer 2016. It is a partnership between Sherman Associates and DEDA. The 750+ seat theater will serve as an arts center managed by the Duluth Playhouse.

PDD Quiz: May 2017

As May draws to a close, we inch closer to a Perfect Duluth Summer. Test your memory of this month’s events in the May 2017 PDD Quiz!

The next PDD Quiz, on Duluth parks, will be published on June 11. E-mail question suggestions to Alison Klawiter at [email protected] by June 8. 

Remains of James J. Hubert finally coming home to Duluth

U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant James Joseph Hubert, a Duluthian who fought and died during the Battle of Tarawa Island in the Pacific Theater of World War II, is finally coming home. He was killed in action and buried in 1943, but when the war was over his remains were not found … until more than seven decades later.

Sgt. Hubert will be returned to Duluth this summer with full military honors. A formal funeral and burial will be held at Calvary Cemetery on July 15.

The full story is available on jamesjosephhubert.com and will likely be heavily featured in Duluth media over Memorial Day weekend.

A detailed interview with Jay Hagen, nephew of Sgt. Hubert, was broadcast in March on WDSM radio’s Sound Off! with Brad Bennett program. The interview is available for listening and downloading at wdsm710.com.

Duluth Folk School finds home; plans to open Dovetail Café

Since offering its first class a year ago, Duluth Folk School has been largely nomadic. Appropriately enough, it recently found a home in the burgeoning Lincoln Park Craft District. A teaching kitchen and café are among the many plans for the massive space at 1917 W. Superior St.

Crooked Pint Ale House open in Kenwood Village

Crooked Pink Ale House opened its Duluth location on Tuesday in the Kenwood Village apartment development on Kenwood Avenue and Arrowhead Road. It’s the chain’s sixth location in Minnesota.