Superior’s Main Street and the Interstate Bridge

The News Tribune’s Eh? column posed a question to readers last week, wondering why the Main Streets in Duluth and Superior don’t seem all that “main.”

I’m not sure how Duluth’s Main Street got its name – it’s over in West Duluth, south of I-35 – but I do know that Superior’s Main Street once was the main (and only) route to the Interstate Bridge. That’s the span that connected Duluth and Superior before the Blatnik (or High) Bridge was built.

Here’s an aerial photo, circa 1960, that gives a clear view of Superior’s Main Street, running along Connors Point on the right side of the photo toward the Interstate Bridge. In this view, it appears that the Blatnik Bridge construction is well under way, but not yet finished:

You can read more about the Interstate Bridge here.

Share your memories about the Interstate Bridge or the Twin Ports’ Main Streets by posting a comment.

Gershgol’s Food Center, 1960

October 25, 1960

Gershgol’s Food Center, also known as Gershgol’s Economy Market, 125 W. First St. in downtown Duluth. (George Starkey / News-Tribune)

According to articles in the News Tribune archives, Gershgol’s  had its start in 1918 or 1919, when I.E. Gershgol set up a tent on a lot at 125 W. First St. and sold produce. As the story goes, Gershgol was in St. Paul and overheard two produce dealers talking about a surplus train-car-load of apples. He bought the whole load, brought it to Duluth and sold them – first out of the back room of a barber shop, then from his tent. (for a photo of the tent, see below)

In 1923, a building was constructed on the site. The business branched out into wholesale, and a eventually chain of Gershgol’s stores developed. Other store locations included 5536 Grand Ave., 5928 E. Superior St. and 2215 W. Superior St.

Gershgol’s Food Center, Jan. 16, 1963. (Duluth Herald photo)

The downtown store, as seen in the photos above, had a unique rooftop parking arrangement to make the most of its hemmed-in site. A conveyor belt carried orders up to the lot.

Here are a couple of interior views of Gershgol’s from Oct. 25, 1960; both were taken by George Starkey of the News-Tribune:

Here are some zoomed-in views of the photos above:

According to city directories, in 1967, the downtown store remained Gershgol’s. In 1970, 1973 and 1978, it was listed as a Red Owl store. In 1981, it no longer appears in the directory – so I assume it had closed by that time.

Today, there still is a low-rise building occupying the site, now filled with offices – the old store remodeled, perhaps? – with some parking on the roof.

**Update: Courtesy of Stan Gershgol, here is a photo of the tent that was the start of the grocery store chain:

From Stan Gershgol: This is a picture of the first major tent where the original store was built. On the left is Issac E. Gershgol, center Joseph Gershgol and David Gershgol (my father) on right. Not sure of the year. Possibly 1919 or close.

Share your memories of Gershgol’s – and information about when it closed – by posting a comment.

Lundahl’s Coffee Shop, 1988

April 25, 1988

Betty Crandall chats with Mark Manthey and his daughter Martinique, 5, at Lundahl’s Coffee Shop, 32 N. 21st Ave. W, in April 1988. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

Coffee’s on again at Lundahl’s

By Ellen Smith, News-Tribune staff writer

Just three months after a fire closed the doors temporarily, business at Lundahl’s Coffee Shop is bouncing back.

On a recent sunny morning, a dozen West End businessmen shared coffee and sweet rolls in the back of the tiny restaurant – as they do every morning – to determine which lucky diner would pay the bill. Up at the counter, elderly brothers in matching hats sipped coffee in unison. And at the table near the corner, a group discussed bocci ball and other games of their youth over a friendly cup.

Behind the counter, Betty Crandall – she’s the owner – prepared the soups and pies of the day. Roger McColley, the dishwasher, scrubbed up plates and saucers, stacking them next to the waitress’s ticket wheel. Mary Lou Moebakken and Tammy Crandall, Betty’s daughter, poured cup after cup of Lundahl’s famous egg coffee.

Egg coffee?

“Sure,” Betty says. “It’s what brings the customers in.”

Egg coffee is a throwback to the days when people boiled their brew in large galvanized pots over an open flame. At Lundahl’s, the crew boils an egg – shells and all – in with the grounds and water until the shells rise to the top and the coffee’s done. After a quick run through a conventional coffee strainer, it’s clear as consomme and ready for drinking.

“Do you find the taste of it different?” regular Dean Davidson asks a newcomer as they sip their java. “Some days it’s wonderful, and others it isn’t as good.

“But, by and by, it’s the best coffee around,” he said. “Everyone will say that. That’s why they come.”

Dean should know. The Electrolux salesman has stopped by for breakfast nearly every morning for the past 15 years. Usually, he orders “Dean’s Special,” an off-the-menu combination of a sunny-side egg, two bacon strips and a pancake, but this morning he dined on the daily special – a short stack of strawberry ‘cakes with syrup and whipped cream.

Lundahl’s Coffee Shop regulars George and Walter Carlson of Duluth finish up their java. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

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But it’s more than the coffee that brings the customers in. Lundahl’s, 32 N. 21st Ave. W, is a friendly place. Customers and workers know each other by name. The soups, muffins and desserts are made fresh every morning and the orders are sent out quickly. With its blue curtains and white vinyl tablecloths, the place feels downright homey.

“The atmosphere is different…,” says Tammy, who fled back to Lundahl’s after a stint as a prep cook at a nearby chain-owned pancake house.

“… over there it’s rush, rush, rush,” Betty said.

“Over here it’s more friendly, with neighbors coming in…,” Tammy continued.

“And salesmen doing business,” Betty added.

“And teasing,” said Mary Lou, stopping by to pick up a coffee pot.

Tammy Crandall writes up the lunch menu at Lundahl’s Coffee Shop. The restaurant’s fare changes every morning, when Betty Crandall decides what she’d like to cook up for the day. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

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Lundahl’s has served egg coffee since 1904, as boldly proclaimed in the shop’s front window. Betty – no relation to the Lundahl family – has run the restaurant since 1983. She got into the business after a former cook quit in 1981 and ended up buying the place.

“I never intended to have a restaurant,” she said during her morning break. “I didn’t think I was good enough.” She’s never taken a cooking class, but raising 10 children gave Betty plenty of experience in serving the masses.

Under her guidance, the restaurant ran smoothly until Jan. 30, when vandals broke in and set a fire in the basement. Betty has nor idea who started the blaze, or whether the police ever found the culprit.

The fire closed the restaurant down for two months for cleaning and repairs. Lundahl’s regulars – Dean, the elderly brothers, the West End business operators, the bocci ball fans – all breakfasted somewhere else.

It wasn’t much fun, Dean said. He tried a few other local restaurants, but the food didn’t suit him and the company wasn’t the same. Soon after Lundahl’s reopened on March 28, he returned.

Apparently most of Betty’s other customers felt the same way.

“Some of them went to the doughnut shop on Third Street; some went to the Highway Host,” Dean said. “But they’ve all come back.”

For another cup of coffee.

Tammy Crandall pours a pot of steaming coffee from a galvanized kettle at Lundahl’s Coffee Shop in April 1988. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

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The building that housed Lundahl’s Coffee Shop, on the corner of First Street and 21st Avenue West, now is home to the Innerspace Scuba Center. I can’t find any additional information on when and why Lundahl’s closed… I’ll leave it to you to fill in the rest of the story by posting a comment.

Thanks to all who bought calendars!

Thanks to everyone who bought the 2011 calendars featuring photos from the News Tribune archives. The sale was a big success, and raised money for the Newspapers in Education program.

If you still want a calendar, there are a few dozen left. You can buy them for $7 apiece by stopping in at the News Tribune office, or they can be shipped for $10 apiece by ordering at duluthnewstribune.com.

The 13-month calendars feature 14 photos from the DNT archives.

Best of the Attic, Vol. 1

Next month will bring the third anniversary of the News Tribune Attic site. While I know some people have been with us since the very first posts (and thanks for your continued readership), many others started coming to the site somewhat later.

I thought it might be good to highlight some “best of” posts from those first months – good stuff that many current readers may have missed. So, on that note, check out these early Attic highlights:

A. Jannetta Grocery on Piedmont Avenue, 1980

Arrowhead Bridge

Comic books at Granada News, 1982

Chinese Lantern fire, 1994

The Magnolia Shoppe, 2000

Superior gas ball comes down, 1985

February 28, 1985

Bit by bit, this old ball-like tank that once held manufactured gas is coming down. The tank, just off Highway 53 near Catlin Avenue in Superior, is no longer used by the Superior Water, Light & Power Co. It was erected more than 30 years ago. The bottom already has been removed. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune & Herald)

The “gas ball” came up in an Attic post a couple years ago. In that photo, it was seen in the distance. Only recently did I find a couple photos showing the gas ball in great detail, as it met its end just about 25 years ago.

Here is one more:

A workman uses a cutting torch to dismantle the gas ball in Superior on Feb. 28, 1985. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune & Herald)

Share your memories of the gas ball by posting a comment.

Nelson Pharmacy, 1978

February 13, 1978

This building at 19th Avenue East and Superior Street soon will be without a pharmacy for the first time since 1908. (Duluth Herald)

Neighborhood loses pharmacy after 70 years

Duluth Herald

For 70 years there has been a pharmacy at the northwest corner of 19th Avenue East and Superior Street. After Wednesday, there will be no more.

Daniel G. Remick Sr., owner of Nelson Pharmacy at 1831 E. Superior St., is closing out the business and will take over the Tronsdal Pharmacy, 2822 Piedmont Ave., which will be renamed Piedmont Pharmacy.

Remick said he is “quite sure” there is no pharmacy in Duluth that has operated longer in a single location than the one he is closing. Others may have a longer history but not in a single location, he said.

“It has got to the point where you can’t meet inflation with a store this size,” Remick said. “You have to have something bigger – carry more merchandise.”

Nelson Pharmacy owner Daniel G. Remick Sr. gets ready to move to a new location in February 1978.

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His store, which shares a building with Mr. Frank’s Pizza East, contains 800 square feet of retail space. At Piedmont he will have 3,200 square feet.

The building he now occupies was erected in 1906 and first housed a grocery store. In 1908, Ben Beyers opened a pharmacy there. It was taken over subsequently by Earl Nelson, who remodeled the space in 1939 and gave it its name. Remick bought the business 17 years ago.

Remick said he will continue to serve the old neighborhood with delivery service and is taking with him all its old prescriptions, which number more than 400,000. All seven employees, including himself and his wife, June, will join in the shift to the new location. Three additional employees will be added, Remick said.

Lester Johnson, who operated the Tronsdal Pharmacy, is joining the staff at the Clinic Pharmacy in Cloquet.

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This archive article seemed timely, given the recent demise of the Falk’s Pharmacy chain in the Duluth area.

The Nelson Pharmacy storefront, as seen in the first photo, now is home to The Amazing Alonzo bookstore, which has been at that location since 1982. The bookstore’s storefront is seen below in July 2010, in a News Tribune photo by Bob King:

Share your memories of Nelson Pharmacy by posting a comment.

Duluth Fire Dept. gets a new home, 1965

June 1965

The old and the new in Duluth firehalls stand across First Street from each other at Sixth Avenue West. At right is the new structure featuring fire-engine red glazed bricks on its facade. On the left is the old Fire Department headquarters, which will be razed as part of the Gateway Urban Renewal project to make way for a new main post office. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

A little more than 45 years ago, the Duluth Fire Department moved into a new headquarters building – the same one they occupy today. The move took place in late November 1965. It was a short trip – the old headquarters building, as you can see in the photo above, was just across First Street. It dated back to 1894, and the days of horse-drawn firefighting equipment.

Here are a couple more shots of the old building:

Old Duluth Fire Department headquarters, Oct. 7, 1965. (News-Tribune file photo)

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Larry Bushey eases the Duluth Fire Department’s rescue squad from the headquarters building in April 1965. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

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Here’s a photo of the new (current) headquarters building while nearing completion in October 1965:

The building was paid for with a $600,000 bond issue, and was built to include communications facilities for both the police and fire departments; they formerly were housed out on Park Point.

There were some glitches with the new building. Shortly before opening, fire department officials raised concerns about the floor of the garage – namely, cracks that appeared before the building was officially opened, and low spots in the floor that collected water instead of draining it away, as seen here:

Puddles of water in low spots on the floor of Duluth’s new fire department headquarters are observed by fireman Gerald Pechacek in early November 1965. The water did not drain off after the floor was hosed down. (News-Tribune file photo)

The contractor, United General Constructors, pledged to fix the floor after a meeting with city officials.

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You may have noticed in the caption for the first photo that the site of the old fire headquarters, back when it was slated for demolition in late 1965, was slated to become Duluth’s new main post office. Another article referred to a “proposed $3 million Post Office building.”

Obviously, that new main post office never was built at that location; the site of the former DFD headquarters is a parking lot. I assume there must have been a change along the way that resulted in the main post office being built at its present site in the West End – Lincoln Park neighborhood.

If you have any information about that, or any stories about the old fire department headquarters, please post a comment.

Duluth ore docks, 1940

September 15, 1940

This News Tribune archive photograph of the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway ore docks is dated September 15, 1940. It’s a photograph taken and issued by the U.S. Army Air Corps.

It’s interesting to see how bare the hillside is below Skyline Parkway. You can also see Wade Stadium under construction to the left of the docks; it didn’t open until summer 1941.

Here are some zoomed-in views (click on the photos for larger versions):

This is the full width of the original photo, but cropped in to focus on the populated area.

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Here is the area to the west of the docks, including the construction site for Wade Stadium.

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This is the area to the east of the docks, with Lincoln Park easily recognized by the mass of trees on the right.

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Here’s an extra-zoomed-in view of the area east of the docks, focused on the Clyde Iron complex. You also can make out the old Master Bread Co.  / Peerless auto body building that burned last week.

For those with really good eyes and memories, there’s a large building complex, with several wings, in the photo just above Clyde Iron and just to the left of the Master Bread Co. Any idea what that was? Post a comment.

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Here’s one more image of the DM&IR ore docks, dated July 1959:

I count at least 14 freighters at the docks – plus at least four more across the bay. There’s a note on the back of the photo about ore boats being idled, so perhaps there was some kind of work stoppage that caused a backup of boats.

Also in the photo, you can see the edge Wade Stadium at right, and Wheeler Field at the bottom.

Share your stories and memories by posting a comment.