History Posts

Molly Spaun, owner of Molly’s Bar on Tower Avenue in Superior

Has anyone else had the pleasure of speaking to Molly Spaun about prohibition and prostitution in Superior during the 1920s and ’30s? I did, but my memory is clouded. She tells stories of speakeasies and debauchery. It was a lawless time and fascinating history about the Twin Ports.


Bain News Service photo c. 1913

Bain News Service photo c. 1913

Pretty sporty.  Reminiscent of Soviet combat snowmobiles in basic concept.

Who, what, when, where, why and Howard


I have some questions about various “Howards” in the Duluth area, and I’m hoping someone on PDD can provide the answers:

1. What is/was the “Old Howard Mill” referred to in Old Howard Mill Road?

2. Why does Old Howard Mill Road have two parts so far apart (see Google map excerpt above)? One segment is north of Glenwood Street, and the other is across the Northland Country Club and a bit farther, in what would be… the Congdon neighborhood? Hunters Park? Not quite sure. In any case, why the gap? They don’t even seem to line up.

3. Howard Gnesen Road: It goes up to Gnesen Township, so that half makes sense (Gnesen Township was named for a city in Poland, by the way). But what does the Howard refer to? Is there a connection to the Old Howard Mill?

I think that exhausts my Howard question file. Can anyone out there provide some info?

The oldest sidewalk in Duluth?


A couple years ago I was out for a walk and noticed this section of sidewalk at the corner of Grand View Avenue and 17th Avenue East. I liked the nice touch of stamping the street name in the sidewalk, and I was impressed at the “1926” date – meaning this concrete had survived (with a crack, but still survived) more than 80 cold winters, hot summers and annual freeze-and-thaw cycles in Duluth.

For your consideration…


Just want to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding the “mystery barrels”.  The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa out of Bayfield, WI have secured over $1 million from the Department of Defense to remove about 70 of the barrels for testing.  PDF here of the 2008 MN DOH “Health Consultation” regarding the barrels.  Link here to Nukewatch’s compendium on barrel research including a full collection of local news releases on the subject.

Please share this info with friends and neighbors.

The climate of Duluth, circa 1914

I don’t know if anyone has ever seen/read this or not (I imagine there might be a copy at one of our libraries), but I stumbled on it on archive.org:



note the pre-lift bridge on the cover, plus there’s a few other neat old photos inside, plus some interesting reading, and some interesting old data…

Homegrown Tags

So Homegrown has begun, and you kids and your crazy cameras will undoubtedly be shooting everything in sight and posting the photos to Flickr. By the power vested in me by being the person who’s declared it without authority in the past (though it seemed to work — 2007 slideshow | 2008 slideshow) I declare the official Homegrown Flickr tag to be homegrownmusicfestival2009. If everyone simply tags their photos, we’ll be able to easily find cool shots of all the stuff we missed. I’ll post a slideshow here on PDD on Sunday so we can all recall the memories.

But the question that’s up for grabs is: What will the official Homegrown Twitter hash-tag be? #duluthhomegrown? #homegrownduluth? Simply #homegrown? Something else? Discuss.

One more thing: I stole this photo from Rich Narum. He’s a kickass photographer.

One of the first shopping malls in the United States — Lake View Store in Morgan Park

Lake View Store - Morgan Park - Duluth, MN

Lake View Store – Morgan Park – Duluth, MN

Minnesota has had a long history of firsts for shopping malls. It must be the long, cold winters keeping us on the forefront of the indoor shopping experience. Duluth’s Morgan Park Lake View Store being noted as one of the first indoor malls, Southdale Mall in Edina the first post-war enclosed mall and, of course, the Mall of America the United States’ largest and most visited mall in the world.

The Lake View Store in Morgan Park was built in 1915 and had two levels and a basement. There was a butcher shop, clothing, hardware, furniture, a pharmacy and a department store with groceries, and a general store. The top floor had a bank, dentist office, barber shop, hair salon, hat shop, billiard room and auditorium. The basement had an ice-making plant which made eight tons of ice per day for the mall and for Morgan Park residents and a shoe store. Wiki has more info.

Images courtesy of Wolfsonian – Florida International University

morgan-park xc200402302 xc200402304 xc200402305 xc2004023 Lake View Store - Morgan Park - Duluth, MN

Got an opinion on the Old Jail?



Tonight is your last chance to make your voice heard to those who will make the decision: the Duluth City Council.

The Duluth Heritage Preservation Commission has denied a permit to St. Louis County to demolish the Jail, which is protected from demolition under Duluth law as a landmark building. The County is appealing this decision, and the only way for the Council to overturn it is to essentially break Duluth law, which would establish a precedent that puts all of our historic assets at risk.

The appeal is on tonight’s City Council agenda. If you have something to say about the building’s demolition (on either side of the issue), you get three minutes to make your point.

I am biased to the Jail’s preservation (I write and publish Duluth history books and sit on the HPC), so I also encourage those who don’t wish to speak but who want to see the Jail saved simply show up to show support.

You can learn more about the issue in a letter to the Editor in today’s DNT penned by Richard Moe, a Duluth native and the president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation: http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/118713/.

Duluth’s Piper Building

Mysterious Surveyor Type Outside Piper Building

When I was growing up my mom used to take us to the St. Vincent DePaul store in this building, next to our church, Sacred Heart, which was still a place of worship in those days.

From the Photo Archive | 1979


Thirty years ago, Bud James was one of the custodians at Laura MacArthur Elementary School. All the kids loved him.

Because I was so young then, my memory of Mr. James is fuzzy. What I do remember is that he used to sing all the time, whether it was at assemblies or just randomly in the halls while cleaning up puke. I don’t remember if he was good at singing, or if he was just a ham, but it was great either way.

Every kid should grow up with a singing janitor. Thank you, Mr. James.

Great Music Saturday at Beaners

John HermansonThis Saturday two of my favorite musicians, Danny Schmidt and John Hermanson (of Storyhill, Alva Star, and The Hopefuls), will be playing in the round with third artist Chris O’Brien at Beaner’s Central.

Go check them out; pack the place!
Cost: $15 (for three FANTASTIC musicians)
Showtime: 8pm

5 bedroom, 3 bath, view of bocce courts


Several years ago I took my kids to the playground at Wheeler Field. We went into the clubhouse for a bit, and I read the signs that explain the history of the place and the Wheeler family. We went back outside, and I got into a time-traveling kind of mood, imagining moving away from the places I know for this vast wilderness, running a pioneer’s household without the help of other women, giving birth to babies here. This mind trip was made easier by looking at the huge, wooded hill behind us. “This is what it would have looked like to her, too,” I imagined.

But that’s not the case anymore. I was there on Tuesday, and saw this house being built. It’s too late for me to take a “before” picture, but I looked it up on google maps. I can’t see where the road to the house would be, but I guess it’s connected to Skyline.

I don’t usually feel like development is bad. My house is on developed land, right? Who am I to tell someone else they can’t have a house, too? But being witness to the first sticking-out-like-a-thumb house on this hill makes me sad. I suppose by the time my kids are grown, the hill will be full of houses.

Happy 100th, West Duluth Masonic Temple


Euclid Masonic Lodge 198 was dedicated on March 31, 1909. State Grand Master Eugene Swan presided over the services. About 800 people attended.

One hundred years later, it appears vacant and up for sale. The location is 611 N. Central Ave.

Classic Duluth TV: Mr. Toot and Captain Q

For your enjoyment, clips of the Mr. Toot and Captain Q kids’ shows from — I’m guessing — the early 1960s on what was then WDSM, now KBJR.

Best parts: The starstruck kids introducing themselves to Mr. Toot at the beginning (Peggy, we heard you already!), and Captain Q’s parrot (Angus Mc—–?) helping him pitch Arrowhead milk.

Thanks to YouTube user NorthlandSports, who has posted a number of other vintage Duluth TV clips, including the 1975 KBJR newscast that was featured a few weeks back on the Attic.

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