In the mid-1920s, complaints about delays in crossing the Interstate Bridge were mounting. Aside from the distant Oliver Bridge, it was the only option for vehicles to cross between Duluth and Superior.
In 1925, a private firm called the Twin Ports Bridge Co. sought approval from Congress for a new cross-border span linking Superior to the Grassy Point area of Duluth.
“The present Interstate Bridge is opened 25 percent of the time with delays constantly increasing,” J.B. Finch, president of the Twin Ports Bridge Co., told the News Tribune in January 1925. “The proposed bridge will be above the busiest portion of (the harbor), as far from heavy boat traffic as it is feasible to go. A point much in its favor.”
The bill to authorize what would become known as the Arrowhead Bridge sailed through Congress and was signed by President Calvin Coolidge in March 1925. Efforts to get public financing for the project — which would have made the bridge free to cross — failed, but plans moved ahead for a toll bridge.
Work continued through much of 1926, with the bridge largely completed by March 1927 — a year ahead of schedule. It was so fast that the bridge approaches and connecting roadways were not yet finished, so the official dedication didn’t take place until July 16, 1927 — when officials from both sides of the border and a lengthy line of vehicles celebrated the new bridge amid a rainstorm.
The curving wooden bridge, with a pair of lifting steel spans in the middle to allow for larger ships to pass, was open to both vehicles and pedestrians. It linked Belknap Street in Superior with Lesure Street in West Duluth.
The Arrowhead Bridge remained a private toll bridge until 1963, when Minnesota and Wisconsin shared the expense of buying the span and eliminating the toll. In winter, the drive across could be perilous when frost made the planks slippery. The air horn blasted three times to greet passing ships — and occasionally at other times to greet passing vehicles.
The bridge was damaged and closed for several weeks in the fall of 1973 after it was struck by the freighter Peter Robertson.
When the big, new Bong Bridge opened on Oct. 25, 1984 to link Superior and West Duluth, the now-obsolete Arrowhead Bridge was closed to traffic; up to that point it had opened for ships to pass about 219 times in its final year.
The Arrowhead Bridge was demolished in 1985, at what the News Tribune reported was an estimated cost of $700,000 — $200,000 more than it cost to build it in 1927 (not counting inflation). About 200 feet of the bridge was left on the Superior side for use as a fishing pier; it was demolished in 2009 and replaced with a new pier.
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