Mr. Steak, 1976

Nov. 16, 1976

This photo shows the Mr. Steak restaurant at 2120 London Road, where Burger King is located today. It looks like Burger King must have renovated, and not replaced, the old Mr. Steak building.

The caption that ran with this photo said it the building cost $700,000 and had seating for 208 diners; a lower level, with seating for another 100 to 120 people, was set to open within a year. Mr. Steak was a national chain.

On March 13, 1984, a News-Tribune article reported that the Mr. Steak building would be remodeled into "an unusual blend of Irish restaurant and Texas bar," called McLean’s Irish Pub and O’Gilley’s Bar. Mr. Steak’s owners had filed for bankruptcy and the restaurant had closed the week before.

According to later news articles, McLean’s and O’Gilley’s closed in November 1984, and almost immediately reopened as McLean’s Steak and Seafood and McLean’s Lounge. It closed again in September 1985, then reopened again sometime in 1986, with the downstairs bar taking the name "MacLounge." A January 1987 article refers to the restaurant being closed yet again while undergoing remodeling by new owners. It was set to reopen as "J. Noreen & Co.," a fine-dining restaurant, with a sports bar called "H.B.’s" located downstairs.

That’s where the trail goes cold. Does anyone know when Burger King took over the building?

Mr. Steak had at least one other location in Duluth, near Target at 2202 Maple Grove Road. That building now houses a branch of Grandma’s Restaurant. Here is an uncaptioned photo from 1971 that I assume shows the Maple Grove Road Mr. Steak location:

Here is a close-up of the logo:

The Maple Grove Road Mr. Steak location was open until at least 1984; does anyone know how long it lasted?

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Farmer’s Market, 1966

April 14, 1966

Here is a view of the Duluth Farmer’s Market building at Third Street and 14th Avenue East from April 1966 – about the time it would have been starting up that year. If you drive past today, you’ll see that not much has changed at this site in the past 42 years. (News-Tribune file photo)

** Limited posting until the first week of August. (Home repair projects beckon)

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Doty gives up on the McQuade Safe Harbor, 2000

July 25, 2000

Rocks are piled at the site of the proposed McQuade Safe Harbor project along the North Shore northeast of Duluth in May 2002. (Renee Knoeber / News Tribune)




After years of supporting the contentious McQuade Safe Harbor project, Mayor Gary Doty on Tuesday said it was time to "fold up the tent" and walk away.

Doty’s announcement at a news conference followed the Duluth City Council’s 6-3 decision Monday night to not lease land to the state for the planned $8 million harbor on 6.3 acres of city-owned land at McQuade Road and Scenic Highway 61.

"I continue to recognize the need for a safe harbor and a boat launch along the North Shore," said Doty, who has been one of the project’s strongest supporters. "But as far as the city’s role at this point, it’s finished. It’s time to step back and say there’s nothing more we can do."

It wasn’t clear Tuesday how Doty’s decision would affect the project, which has received legislative approval for more than $4 million in state and federal funding.

The harbor would include a breakwater, two boat launches and parking for more than 60 cars. The original plans, which included more boat launches and amenities such as paved parking, were scaled back two weeks ago at the request of state legislators who said the state couldn’t fund the full project.

Members of the McQuade Safe Harbor Committee still want to build the harbor, committee chairman Bill Beaudry said.

"The project is not a dead issue as far as the committee is concerned," Beaudry said. "The committee will be looking into and exploring options to continue the project."

One option could be a state takeover of the property through eminent domain, according to the Duluth City Attorney’s office.

Doty said he was disappointed by the council’s decision, which he said went against a 10-year tradition of City Council support for the project.

But Councilor Ken Hogg, who voted against the lease, disagreed.

"The mayor may feel that the council made a commitment, but at least during the time that I’ve been on the council, the council has never said or been told that it was making a final commitment on this," Hogg said.

While Doty could pursue a three-year lease deal with the state to allow for construction of the project, he said he would not. He said the DNR would probably not agree to such a short lease, only to face likely litigation when it expired.

Despite the strong message from the council, Hogg and others agree that the project is probably not altogether dead.

"I think we haven’t heard the last of it somehow or another," Hogg said. "Although I don’t know how that might be."

Councilor Hogg’s premonition was right… for those who don’t know, the McQuade Small Craft Harbor officially opened to the public earlier this month.

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Downtown Grand Marais, 1956

Jan. 31, 1956

There is no caption information on this photo other than the date, but it clearly shows downtown Grand Marais. Among the many recognizable buildings is Joynes Department Store, which looks pretty much the same 52 years later. Here is a close-up view:

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Como Oil explosion in Superior, 1998

July 21, 1998

A huge plume of black smoke was visible throughout the Twin Ports Monday following an explosion and fire at a maintenance facility for Como Oil in Superior. Despite the force of the blast that scattered debris all around, only three people were injured. (Bob King / News Tribune)




An explosion and fire ripped through a Como Oil truck maintenance shop in Superior Monday morning, injuring three employees and prompting a neighborhood evacuation.

The explosion ignited a fire that destroyed the building and heavily damaged a house just a few feet from the shop in Superior’s Itasca neighborhood. Burning propane tanks sent black smoke pouring into the air that could be seen in Duluth.

No one was seriously injured.

"We’re not sure yet what caused the explosion," Superior fire investigator Don Piper said Monday afternoon.

At least one propane truck parked inside the building at 5122 E. Third St. was destroyed; the propane tank on another Como Oil truck parked outside burned throughout the afternoon, shooting a torchlike flame skyward.

Four people in the building when the fire started got out safely, according to Tony Sega, Como Oil’s vice president of operations. One employee was taken to a hospital, where he remained later Monday. The others were treated and released for minor injuries, Sega said. Their names weren’t available Monday.

Como Oil is a home-heating company that sells propane, fuel oil and natural gas. The building that burned was owned by Como Oil Co. and leased to Twin Ports Fleet Maintenance, a Como subsidiary that provides maintenance for all of the company’s delivery trucks. The facility also services trucks for a variety of other local companies. Como trucks also fill up on home heating oil at the site.

Though a few Como trucks were damaged by the fire and explosion, Sega said there will be no interruption of service to customers.

"It’s only a fleet maintenance shop. Only a couple of trucks were damaged and we have a lot of trucks," he said.

The building once was home to Como offices, but all business records are kept at the company’s Duluth headquarters and were not damaged.

Authorities were notified of the explosion at Twin Ports Fleet Maintenance about 11:30 a.m. When firefighters arrived, the building was fully engulfed, Piper said. All the city’s fire units responded, he said.

For a time, authorities feared more explosions were likely.

"Yes, the potential is there," Superior Police Capt. Scott Campbell said at the time.

Fire officials move closer to the scene Monday as crews work to bring the blaze under control. People who live in the neighborhood were evacuated for fear that the fire might trigger another explosion — but the fire was brought under control without further incident. (Renee Knoeber / News Tribune)


Although more explosions didn’t happen, Superior’s hazardous materials response plan kicked in.

U.S. Highway 2 was blocked to traffic from 39th Avenue East to the State Highway 13 overpass. Nearby businesses closed and about two dozen households in a 1 1/2 -block radius were evacuated by city crews.

About 30 residents were taken by Duluth Transit Authority bus to Lake Superior Elementary School a couple of miles away.

Betty Hofstedt of East First Street was among those evacuated. She was on the phone when she heard the explosion.

"It’s scary because that gas could’ve blown up this whole area," she said after returning home.

Carl Beckwell, also of East First Street, said the explosions could have been more disastrous, since a pipeline runs underneath the area.

"As far as the law enforcement officials and the fire department goes, I think they did a good job, considering," he said. "It could’ve been a lot worse than it was."

Josephine Naeyaert was at work when the explosion occurred a block or two from her house. She quickly drove home as her neighborhood was being evacuated. Authorities wouldn’t let her into the area.

"I was worried," she said. "I’ve seen people lose homes and lives and things like that. I didn’t want to see it happen to anybody out here."

Meanwhile, the maintenance shop and the truck’s propane tank continued to burn.

"We’ll let it burn," Piper said of the propane fire. "As long as the gas is venting, it means gas in the pressure tank has someplace to go."

By mid-afternoon, when enough of the gas had burned, crews moved in to extinguish the remaining blaze and put out spot fires.

By 3:30 p.m., Highway 2 was reopened and most evacuees were able to return to their homes. By 7 p.m., the tanker fire had been extinguished and the last of the evacuated residents were allowed back in.

But residents still have some cleanup to deal with.

When he returned to his home, Jack Swonger, who lives two blocks from the fire, noticed an "oily film" on his picnic table in his backyard.

When he ran his finger across it, it was black and greasy.

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New life for the Spina Building, 1999

July 31, 1999



Once one of West First Street’s premier properties, the Spina Building at 2 W. 1st St. has seen its share of tenants over the years, including a dance studio, various retail operations and, most recently, the notorious Shish-Ka-Bar.

Few improvements have been made to the building since its construction in 1911. But the Spina block’s days of slow deterioration are coming to a close this summer.

The architecture firm of Damberg, Scott, Gerzina and Wagner is giving the classic building an estimated $1.3 million face-lift that the partners hope will restore the space to its former status.

The firm has grown from 21 employees to more than 35 and needs room to expand. It plans to move its offices into the building later this year.

Plans call for restoring the building’s exterior terra cotta banding and making a variety of interior improvements. The former Dreamland Ballroom will be converted into a spacious loft for the firm’s architects and interior designers to spread out. An elevator and sprinkler system will be installed. But the building’s historic charm will be left intact as much as possible, the firm said.

The makeover is expected to complement the push to draw more high-tech firms to Duluth’s downtown core. The building is located near the Duluth Technology Village, a high-tech office complex under construction in Old Downtown.

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William A. Irvin gets a new neighbor, 1996

July 23, 1996

The Army Corps of Engineers tug Lake Superior, seen above in 1977, was donated to the DECC in July 1996 to be used as a tourist attraction. (Army Corps of Engineers photo / News Tribune files)



Boat buffs may have lost hope of the retired Navy cruiser USS Des Moines coming to Duluth’s waterfront. But the city will receive a floating museum piece of a different sort today.

The Army Corps of Engineers will turn over the Tug Lake Superior, its 53-year-old workhorse of a tugboat, to the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center this afternoon.

The federal agency has agreed to donate the retired vessel to the DECC as a tourist attraction and companion to the William A. Irvin ore carrier, DECC officials announced Monday.

Come early August, visitors can board the Lake Superior for a self-guided tour and learn how the World War II era-vessel kept the Great Lakes clear and navigable from its home base in Duluth for 45 years.

"It’s a tremendously powerful little boat that has been so important to shipping," said Dennis Medjo, the DECC’s director of attractions. "It will be a nice addition to our attraction mix in Duluth."

DECC officials plan to park the Lake Superior back-to-back with the Irvin during the tourism season, with the tug at the ore carrier’s stern and pointed at the Aerial Lift Bridge.

In the winter, they’ll store the tug elsewhere so the carrier won’t knock into the smaller boat in high winds.

The Lake Superior remained open for tours for a little more than a decade, until being auctioned off and put back into service last fall:

Sept. 25, 2007





The Duluth Entertainment Convention Center received three bids for the 114-foot long vessel and accepted the most generous one: Bob Billington of Billington Construction Co. will pay a little more than $56,000 for the tugboat.

This isn’t the first time the 64-year-old

Dan Russell, the

Russell said the lower cost, combined with the loss last year of the Duluth-based

The Seneca, which was owned and operated by Zenith Tugboat Co., grounded while being towed to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

"There was suddenly a need for another

Russell considers Billington’s winning bid a welcome outcome.

"It’s a great vessel, and we’ll be excited to see it back at work in our harbor," he said.


But Russell said the

Russell said that with the

"We want to keep things fresh," he said.

Meanwhile, the

tug Lake Superior soon will bid adieu to its days as a floating ice cream shop and tourist attraction, returning instead to service as a working vessel serving marine traffic in the Twin Ports.tug has been on the auction block. The Lake Superior was offered for sale last year, but no one stepped forward to meet the minimum $130,000 bid established by the DECC.DECC’s executive director, said that in retrospect, it was clear the DECC had vastly overestimated the market for used tugs on the Great Lakes. It didn’t repeat the mistake this year and ended up selling the tugboat for less than half the original asking price.tug Seneca off Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, caused the stars to align this year.tug in the harbor," he said.Lake Superior first went on display at Minnesota Slip, behind the DECC, in 1996, opening its deck and holds for tours alongside the William A. Irvin, a retired 611-foot laker.DECC’s acquisition of the 180-foot U.S. Coast Guard cutter Sundew in 2004 displaced the Lake Superior. While there was room for all three vessels in the slip during fair weather, the DECC had to move the tug to a berth in Superior each year to protect it from November’s battering gales and the scouring force of winter ice. Russell said a Superior marina that previously provided the DECC with a free berth for the Lake Superior recently was sold. Consequently, the DECC would have faced rising costs to keep the tug.Lake Superior returning to service, there should be room in the Minnesota Slip to accommodate other smaller tour vessels, such as restored fishing boats or other small vessels on a seasonal basis.Lake Superior will begin another chapter in a rich history that has included years of service on the Great Lakes, busting ice, assisting in the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway and even serving a tour of duty in salt water during World War II.

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MacLaine stumps for McGovern, 1972

Sept. 28, 1972

Actress Shirley MacLaine (second from left), campaigning for Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern, talks with Duluthians (from left) Aethan Hart, Kris Hendrickson and Colin Isaacson at the Auditorium. (News-Tribune photo)

According to the article that ran with this photo, MacLaine also spoke to shoppers at Goldfine’s By The Bridge during her stop in Duluth to support McGovern in his run against President Nixon. Here are some excerpts:

"Her charge that the Nixon presidency is the most corrupt since Warren G. Harding drew applause at both stops. Miss MacLaine said she is proud to be an American, a woman, a Democrat and a backer of McGovern – but that under Nixon she feels that the United States has gained a bad name with other nations. …

"Miss MacLaine took time to praise the environment of Duluth but sniped at Jeno Paulucci, a well-known local Democrat who is supporting Nixon for president and is co-chairman of Democrats for Nixon. …

"Miss MacLaine was introduced by state Sen. Earl Gustafson at Goldfine’s and by Minnesota Lt. Gov. Rudy Perpich at the reception. Duluth singer Chris Blanchard entertained the crowds at both locations before the actress spoke."

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Medical Arts Building, 1966


This photo of the Medical Arts building on Superior Street in downtown in Duluth is from 1966. Note the absence of skywalks.

Here is a close-up of street-level business signs:

At far left is a sign that reads: Captain’s Table Cafeteria Coffee Shop. Does anyone remember that restaurant?

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Silver Street in Hurley, 1950s


Silver Street in downtown Hurley, Wis. (News-Tribune photo)

There is no date on this photo, but from the cars I’m guessing it’s from the early 1950s. And, I’m pretty sure this is a view looking west from near the Wisconsin-Michigan state line. Hurley has a notoriously wild history – as evidenced by the number of bars and clubs visible in this photo. Even today, Hurley has a very high number of nightspots for a town of its size.

Here are some close-ups from the photo above; at least one bar has a Fitger’s Beer sign:

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