History Posts

How I Spent My Summer Vacation in Minnesota with Daniel Johnston, Laura Ingalls Wilder, my great-great-grandparents and a bunch of short-fiction writers

There comes a time in every Minnesota man’s summer when he climbs into a rusty conversion van with the love of his life and sets out across the state in search of everything and nothing in particular.

Once the dog and the cooler of beer are secure in back, it’s off we go.

Nemadji Wisconsin Point Burial Tour

Ever wonder what happened to all the remains from the old Indian cemetery on Wisconsin Point? According to this YouTube video, over 100 burials were “dumped” along the banks of the Nemadji River at the St. Francis Cemetery in Superior. Their bones and artifacts crop up to this day as the banks continue to erode.

From the Rock Poster Archive | 1999


Ten year’s ago, the hottest chainsaw-weilding band in the country played at Stargate in Superior. For some reason I held on to the poster, even though I did not attend. I did see Jackyl open for Damn Yankees at the DECC in 1992, however.

Did anyone see the Soup Town show? Anyone? Anyone?

1935 Wheaties box featuring Frank “Butch” Larson

FrankLarson1Duluth native Frank “Butch” Larson appeared on Wheaties cereal boxes in 1935. Finding one of those boxes after 74 years might be a challenge.

It’s hard to watch a house come down


This house at 738 N. Central Ave. in West Duluth was ripped down yesterday to make way for the new Laura MacArthur Elementary School. I think the new school will be great, and I have no particular reason to be sentimental about this house or any of the others on the block, but there’s something that punches me in the gut when I watch a house get smashed to bits.

Historic Day at Denfeld


Ten new members were inducted into Denfeld High School’s Hunter Hall of Fame on Saturday. At the end of the ceremony, descendants of Robert E. Denfeld and Walter Hunting were brought to the stage. Although the phrase “Denfeld Hunters” has been around since the 1930s, the Denfeld and Hunting families had never met before. (Photo by Butch Williams)

End of Stagecoaches in Duluth

On August 1, 1870, the St. Paul and Lake Superior Stagecoaches ceremoniously quit service with the opening of the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad. On this day, the first train arrived in Duluth from St. Paul, a roughly 150-mile trip that took 16 hours.

–Susan Marks, Historic Photos of Minnesota
Turner Publishing Company, 2009

Last Look at Three West Duluth Structures


Anticipating the demolition of the Duluth Motel and Star Enterprises in West Duluth, I took a few photos two weeks ago. Both buildings are rubble now.

The Hillside Flyers

Remember that dazzling group of tumblers? They just randomly somersaulted into the nostalgia part of my brain this morning. I can’t remember anymore why the group disbanded. Did the coach move away or something?

MPR story from 2001 here

Free talk to make you smarter


Tuesday, July 14
12 noon

Brown Bag Lunch Lecture with representatives from the Marshall Alworth Planetarium


Slip away from work and learn a thing or two about the universe. Join staff from the Alworth Planetarium as they guide you through an exploration of your planetary neighborhood.

Show and Tell, my turn

This nice little button celebrates the dedication of Enger Tower. The King and Queen of Norway were on hand along with many prominent Duluth dignitaries. I’ve had this thing for more than 30 years- I think an ex-girlfriend’s mother was cleaning out a junk drawer and gave it to me…Button

Show and Tell


I have an old Bridgeman-Russell Company ruler. I don’t often think about how awesome it is, so I catch myself using it to do things like scrape gunk off a counter. For the sake of history, I’ll try to be more careful in the future.

From the Photo Archive: Bob Dylan and Paul Simon at Bayfront


Bob Dylan and Paul Simon played a very muddy concert at Bayfront Festival Park on July 3, 1999. For some reason, I decided to wear a new pair of white sneakers. This photo is of my friend Chris’ shoes, but one of mine is creeping in on the bottom.

It was a great concert, and totally worth the destruction of a pair of shoes.

Abandoned Plans: Hope Center

Hope Center Union Gospel Mission

This picture is hanging in the men’s room on the main floor of the Union Gospel Mission. And that’s amazing all in itself, bathroom decorating decisions. But there’s more … clearly it’s an architectural conception or rendering of a long forgotten plan for a place called “Hope Center.” Many of you will recognize the proposed site and the buildings involved. I used to work in one of them so I find this especially compelling and mysterious for that reason … also amusing, the happy strollers depicted for scale or mood, people in architectural drawings always just seem like life is going perfectly, don’t they?

Now, I did a google search on this project and came up with a goose egg, nothing on this. Which made me even more curious about all of this. My questions are: 1) When was this to have happened? The fashions and cars in the image got me thinking mid 80s, also that would measure up with my memories, because anytime after that I bet I would have remembered this. 2) Why didn’t it happen? And (for extra credit) 3) Are there other abandoned or not yet realized plans out there similar to this one? I mean clear plans like this one, not some wild dream sketched on the back of a cocktail napkin — I’ve got a few of those around myself.

Peace out, Duluth!

Maybe you’ve read this post from my Facebook note, but in case you haven’t succumbed to that monster …

As some of you already know, I will be moving out of town soon to be with the love of my life, the wonderful and lovely Rebecca Zaban, in St. Paul.

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