40th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald


A tranquil sunrise over Lake Superior as seen from Canal Park in Duluth on Nov. 10, 2015 – the 40th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Four freighters were visible on the lake at the time. (Andrew Krueger / akrueger@duluthnews.com)

Today – Nov. 10, 2015 – is the 40th anniversary of the wreck of the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald in a ferocious storm on Lake Superior. Today’s peaceful sunrise in Duluth was about as far as the weather could get from the conditions four decades ago.

After leaving Superior with a load of taconite, the ship sank on the evening of Nov. 10, 1975, in eastern Lake Superior off Whitefish Point with the loss of all 29 men on board.

The freighter Edmund Fitzgerald is guided by the tug Vermont under the Blatnik Bridge and through the opening in the Interstate Bridge in this undated photo from the 1960s. There are people (construction workers?) up on the Blatnik Bridge, so I’m thinking this may be from before it opened in 1961. The Fitzgerald was launched in 1958. So that would put the photo about 1960. (News-Tribune file photo)

The freighter Edmund Fitzgerald is guided by the tug Vermont under the Blatnik Bridge and through the opening in the Interstate Bridge in this undated photo from the 1960s. There are people (construction workers?) up on the Blatnik Bridge, so I’m thinking this may be from before it opened in 1961. The Fitzgerald was launched in 1958. So that would put the photo about 1960. (News-Tribune file photo)

I posted archive photos and other information about the Fitzgerald in 2010, on the 35th anniversary of the wreck. You can view that post here.

The News Tribune has run several articles in recent days, tied to the anniversary of the wreck. Read them here and here.

The front page of the Nov. 11, 1975 Duluth Herald, reporting news of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The front page of the Nov. 11, 1975 Duluth Herald, reporting news of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Here’s a video that includes recordings of marine radio traffic in the immediate aftermath of the Fitzgerald going missing:

Here’s a video of Gordon Lightfoot’s famous song about the wreck, including photos and footage of the ship:

And here’s a News Tribune video from 2011, of the annual memorial ceremony held at Split Rock Lighthouse on the North Shore of Minnesota. The ceremony will be held again this afternoon; click here for details:

Share your memories by posting a comment.

Duluth’s Seven Corners


An aerial view looking across Seven Corners and down Lower Piedmont Avenue in Duluth on June 7, 2000. (Renee Knoeber / News-Tribune)

Seven Corners was a famous – infamous? – traffic intersection / bottleneck in Duluth, where Piedmont Avenue, Skyline Parkway, Trinity Road and 24th Avenue West all met in a somewhat confusing, jumbled junction.

Why “Seven Corners” when there seem to be only six? I’ve heard that some people considered the Lincoln Park parkway – visible coming up to Skyline Parkway through the trees at lower right – the “seventh” corner. Or is there another reason? Share what you know by posting a comment.

The whole area underwent a major change in the early 2000s as Lower Piedmont Avenue / Trinity Road was converted to a four-lane highway and the junction reworked. What had been one intersection was split into three separate junctions. The traffic bottlenecks are now mostly a thing of the past. Here are some more views of the old Seven Corners / Piedmont area:


Traffic runs smoothly through the infamous Seven Corners intersection where new traffic lights were turned on in December 1996. (Kathy Strauss / News-Tribune)


Traffic fills the lanes of Lower Piedmont Avenue below Seven Corners on June 7, 2000. (Bob King / News-Tribune)


A line of northbound vehicles extending from Seven Corners down to Tenth Street on Piedmont Avenue waited for more than 20 minutes to finally pass through the intersection on June 19, 1997. Work crews were building a new sidewalk which closed one of the two lanes for much of the day. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)


The Food ‘N Fuel at 1323 Piedmont Ave. (Seven Corners), seen here on Feb. 22, 2001. It had to move because of its position in the path of the expansion of Piedmont Avenue. (Jessica Shold / News-Tribune)


Construction underway in the Seven Corners area on June 25, 2004. Trinity Road is at upper left; the under-construction Skyline Parkway bridge over Piedmont Avenue is at upper right. (Derek Neas / News-Tribune)

What do you remember about Seven Corners? Share your memories by posting a comment.

London Road, circa 1960s



This view from sometime in the 1960s shows London Road in Duluth, looking west toward the Plaza shopping center, visible at upper right. The steeple of First Lutheran Church can be seen in the distance. Click on the photo for a larger view.

Here’s a zoomed-in view of the Plaza, with a J.C. Penney store in the space now occupied by a Super One grocery store:


The photographer is standing in front of an out-of-frame gas station. Perhaps it’s the Lakehead Service Center at 1530 London Road, seen in this photo from about the same time:


You can read more about the gas station here.

What do you remember about that stretch of London Road? What stores do you remember going to at the Plaza? Share your memories by posting a comment.

Panoramic view of Duluth’s police force, circa 1918


The photo above is a detail from a great panoramic photo posted online by the Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives at the University of Minnesota Duluth. It’s a photo of what must have been the entire Duluth police force – along with some city dignitaries, perhaps – at the Civic Center in downtown Duluth, in front of the St. Louis County Courthouse. Here’s the full image; click and zoom in for a much-larger view:


You can find an even higher-resolution version here.

The stitched-together image is a bit deceiving; the officers on the far left are facing southeast and the ones at far right are facing northwest; there’s a 180-degree curve concealed in the image.

It’s hard to date the photo exactly, but it’s from between 1910 – when the Alworth Building opened (visible in the distance at right) – and the mid-1920s when Duluth City Hall was built (it opened in 1928 – note that its future location is empty in this view). The archives staff gave it an estimated date of 1918.

A couple of now-vanished buildings are recognizable in the distance:

  • The tall Christie Building about a quarter of the way in from the right – it was demolished in 1980 to make way for the present-day Government Services Center; read more here. In this view it bears the sign of Duluth Business University (see zoomed-in view below).
  • Jackson School, visible above the staircase just left of center – now home to a county parking ramp.

The photo is labeled “Tribune-Duluth” – so it likely was an image shot by a photographer at what is now the Duluth News Tribune.

Here’s what the scene looks like today – taken with my iPhone panoramic photo feature this evening. I’m guessing that saved a lot of time compared to the effort that went into creating a panoramic image in 1918:

photoHere are some zoomed-in views of the original photo:


The only woman in the image


A closer view of the Christie Building with its DBU sign.


Early “photobomb”? – a couple unauthorized individuals managed to get in the photo in the background. One of them is leaning against what appears to be some kind of bulletin board.


A few more people managed to sneak into the frame at the top of the stairs and behind the shrubs.


A view of the Alworth Building in the distance, along with the Tribune credit.

What else do you spot in the photo? Share your observations by posting a comment.

Duluth mystery photo

scan 4


This photo in the News Tribune files has no caption information; click on the photo for a larger version.

We assume it’s from the mid- to late 1960s. And we can spot a U.S. Highway 61 road sign. Our best guess is that this shows Carlton Street in Duluth’s West End, looking toward the harbor. The ore docks would be to the right of the frame, and Clyde Iron (the present-day Duluth Heritage Sports Center) in the distance to the left of this view.

Can anyone confirm that? Or do you think this photo was taken somewhere else? What other details do you notice in the photo? Share your observations by posting a comment.

Here are two zoomed-in views of the photo above:

scan 4a

scan 4b

Promoting New Duluth, 1890

From the archives of the Duluth News Tribune, this full-page ad from the Nov. 26, 1890 edition of the Duluth Daily Tribune (a forerunner of the DNT):

An account of the brief life of the village of New Duluth can be found in the 1921 book “Duluth and St. Louis County, Minnesota: Their Story and People,” edited by Walter Van Brunt. It contains a report from Charles Lovett, who was involved in the development of the community. New Duluth was incorporated in the fall of 1891 and was annexed into Duluth a little more than three years later, at the end of 1894.

39th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

The Edmund Fitzgerald on the St. Mary’s River near Sault Ste. Marie, May 1975. (Bob Campbell photo / News-Tribune files)

Monday – Nov. 10, 2014 – is the 39th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald in a massive storm on Lake Superior. The freighter’s crew of 29 men, including several from the Northland, died when the ship sank in eastern Lake Superior off Whitefish Point on Nov. 10, 1975; it had been heading from Superior to Detroit with a load of taconite.

A little after 7 p.m. that day, the Fitzgerald was in radio contact with the nearby Arthur M. Anderson, and reported that they were “holding our own” in heavy seas. There was no further contact with the freighter; minutes later the ship had disappeared from radar screens.

I compiled a number of archive photos and other information about the Fitzgerald in 2010, on the 35th anniversary of the wreck. You can view that post here.

Among the items posted there is this well-done video for Gordon Lightfoot’s famous song about the wreck:

Split Rock Lighthouse northeast of Two Harbors will host its annual beacon lighting and memorial service for the victims of the Fitzgerald, and all Great Lakes wrecks, on Monday afternoon. They will toll a bell 29 times for each man who lost his life on the Fitzgerald, and then toll the bell a 30th time for all lost mariners. After that, the lighthouse’s beacon will be lit. It’s the only time each year when visitors can climb to the top of the tower while the beacon is lit and revolving.

The lighthouse will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Monday; the memorial service is at 4:30 p.m. Admission is $7 per person, free for Minnesota Historical Society members.

Here’s a News Tribune video of the Nov. 10, 2011, memorial ceremony at Split Rock:

Share your memories by posting a comment.

Haunted house in Duluth, 1902

In a town with as much history as Duluth, there are countless stories of ghosts and haunted houses. But most of those don’t make the newspaper.

One that did was the case of “mysterious rappings” at a home in the Lincoln Park/West End neighborhood, in December 1902. As you can read below, the News Tribune carried two stories about the strange events in a home described as “three doors east of Twenty-sixth Avenue West on Tenth Street”; no specific address was given. Is the house in question among those still standing along that block of 10th Street? It’s hard to say – but if you have anything to add to the story, please post a comment. And if you’d like to share your own Northland ghost story, please feel free to share those, too.

Here are the two stories about the mysterious spirit of West 10th Street, as they appeared in the News Tribune back in 1902:

December 5, 1902


Mysterious rappings give concern to many timid persons

Duluth has a genuine haunted house, located just east of Twenty-sixth Avenue West on Tenth Street.

Besides the ghost, spirit or whatever it may be, there reside in the house Mrs. Lindberg and her three children.

The building was formerly owned by ex-Alderman Ambrose M. Cox, who was asphyxiated by gas last Saturday. At the time Mr. Cox owned the building a man named Joseph Wolf died of smallpox there.

To make the story more weird the appearance of the unearthly noises were heard shortly after Mr. Cox met with the fatal accident.

Startled by rappings

Monday the occupants were startled by rappings on the floor. An investigation of the cellar did not reveal anything, and the noises continuing through the night, the case was reported to the police. Two policemen called during the day. Shortly after their entrance, the noises began and continued at intervals. Neighbors of the family heard of the trouble and called, and one man has been wearing his pompadour ever since.

The spirit does not object to being interviewed, and will answer any question put to it.

Tuesday night a brother of Mrs. Lindberg remained at the house during the night. He commanded the spirit to answer by two raps for no and three for yes. Directly following the questions, given in an ordinary voice, the answers were given. When asked if it would like some music three solemn raps was the reply. Accompanying music on the mouth-organ, the clog of an expert jig dancer could be plainly heard on the floor. After a song by the same man, an encore by the unseen visitor followed. The rapping was either loud or soft according to the wishes of the audience, and any number of raps asked for was given. They emanate from different parts of the floor, according to the disposition of the rapper.

The spirit evidently sleeps between the hours of 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. for it refuses to be aroused during that time. It is also partial to small audiences and will not give a performance before a crowded house.

Many visit the house

Inquisitive persons from all parts of town have visited the place, most of them unbelievers in spiritualism, but all report themselves fully convinced.

When asked if it would like to talk with a certain woman an affirmative reply was given. The woman lives on a farm out of town, and the two oldest girls of the family were sent for her Thursday. She refused, however, to converse with the unearthly person, and says she will leave town. While the girls were in search of the friend of the spirit, no noises were heard, but as soon as they re-entered the house, an inquiring rap was immediately heard on the floor.

The occupants say they cannot put up with the disturbance much longer and the house will soon be for rent to some unsuperstitious person.

A dog was put in the cellar to keep the spirit company, but he was more particular about the company he kept, and was last seen going down Tenth Street as fast as his legs could carry him.


Here’s a short follow-up that ran in the paper two days later, on Dec. 7, 1902:


Spiritualist tries to drive spook out but it refuses to quit house

Ghosts continue to hold daily carousals at the west end.

Those haunting the house three doors east of Twenty-sixth Avenue West on Tenth Street played before a crowded house last night.

A spiritualist called yesterday to commune with the spook and induce it to get out, but a deaf ear was turned to her request. To the question, “Are you to remain here?” it replied solemnly in the negative.

Different persons around the city have laughed at the stories of those who visited the house, and expressed a desire to investigate the nocturnal mystery. One who was particularly brave – before getting into the vicinity of the ghost – said he would show them how they were all being fooled.

He accompanied his friends to the house, and heard the gentle tap, tap, tap on the cellar floor. He then asked questions and was immediately answered by the invisible oracle. He tried Scandinavian, and was perfectly understood by the ghost. “Strike louder,” he exclaimed in a whisper. The dirt was shaken out of the cracks at his feet. His hat rose on his head, a break was made for the door and he fled.


That’s where the story seems to end in the News Tribune. If you know more about this haunted house, or any others in Duluth or the Northland, please post a comment.

Duluth’s first television station, WFTV

I’m reposting some information I first shared here three years ago, about Duluth’s first television station, WFTV. Why? Because WFTV’s first home, the Palladio Building in downtown Duluth, is about to be razed to make way for the new Maurices corporate headquarters. You can read a story about the demolition here, and read much more about the Palladio Building here, on the Zenith City Online website.

Back to WFTV, here’s an article about the station that I wrote in 2011…

WFTV newscaster Gordon Paymar (right) goes through a test show on June 4, 1953, three days before the station – Duluth’s first – started broadcasting. Running the cameras are Lee Butkiewicz (left) and Fred Badecker. (News Tribune file photo)


By Andrew Krueger, News Tribune, June 2, 2011

It arrived with great fanfare, ushering in a technological and entertainment revolution in the Twin Ports.

But little more than a year later, it was left in the dust by more powerful upstarts, and relegated to being a largely forgotten footnote in local history.

Fifty-eight years ago next Tuesday, at 2 in the afternoon, WFTV Channel 38 started broadcasting as Duluth’s first television station.

“The opening program will mark the start of a new form of mass communication in the Head of the Lakes area,” the News Tribune reported on June 5, 1953, two days before the first broadcast. “It will make available to this area a type of broadcasting which up to now has been received on a catch-as-catch-can basis from the Twin Cities.”

From the beginning, WFTV faced an uphill battle as an ultra-high frequency (UHF, i.e., high channel number) station in an era when few existed.

Up to that time, anyone in Duluth with a TV set would have tried to snag occasional signals from distant VHF (i.e., lower channel number) stations in the Twin Cities. In the days leading up to WFTV’s first broadcast, local stores placed many ads in the News Tribune touting TV sets and antennas that could pick up the new UHF signal.

WFTV, owned by Great Plains Television Properties, took out its own full-page ad on June 5, introducing the station and its staff. “This is it,” the station proclaimed. “The big event is here. The hard work and months of planning are now completed. The excitement is now at its highest.”

The first show was something called “WFTV Opening Salute,” the specifics of which were not described in news accounts of the time. Next up was Billy Graham, followed later in the afternoon by footage of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, held the week before.

Early network shows on the station included “I Love Lucy,” “Flash Gordon,” “The Web,” “Dragnet” and “Philco TV Playhouse.”

WFTV produced local news, sports and weather programs, initially hosted by Robert Potter, Gordon Paymar, Bill Kirby and Ernest Orchard. According to contemporary news stories, WFTV also had local women’s programs produced by Elizabeth “Libby” Smith; commentary from Wallace W. Hankins; entertainment from Famous, a country-western singer; and a “kiddie program” conducted by Earl Henton – who later went on to a long career at KDAL / KDLH.

WFTV’s first studios were in space shared with WEBC radio at Superior Street and Fourth Avenue West – a building that today houses Beacon Bank and other offices. In March 1954, WFTV moved to studios at Superior Street and Third Avenue East.

WFTV enjoyed a monopoly in the market for the better part of a year, but by early 1954 two new stations – KDAL Channel 3 and WDSM Channel 6 – signed on. Not only did they snag some of the top network programming from WFTV, but as VHF stations, they were more powerful and easier to receive. We know those two stations today as KDLH and KBJR, respectively.

WFTV lingered on for several more months, but on Friday, July 9, 1954, the Duluth newspapers carried word that the city’s pioneering television station would cease broadcasting that Sunday at 10 p.m.

“We find the market unprofitable,” general manager C.G. Alexander told the Duluth Herald, “and rather than spend more money, the best thing is to call it quits.”

And so on July 11, 1954, WFTV’s days in Duluth came to an end. The station that brought the Twin Ports into the age of television faded to black.

WFTV program director Robert Potter (standing) and assistant chief engineer Douglas Cole monitor a test show production on June 4, 1953 at the station’s studio’s in downtown Duluth. (News Tribune file photo)

First day of programming

The schedule for the first day of broadcasting on Duluth’s WFTV Channel 38 on June 7, 1953, as printed in that day’s News Tribune:
9 a.m. Test pattern
2 p.m. WFTV Opening Salute
3 p.m. Billy Graham
3:15 p.m. TV Matinee
4 p.m. Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
5:30 p.m. First Presbyterian Church
6:30 p.m. Front Page Detective and Between Acts
7 p.m. Toast of the Town
8 p.m. TV Playhouse
9 p.m. Boston Blackie
9:30 p.m. Hollywood Half Hour
10 p.m. News in View
10:15 p.m. WFTV Weather Man
10:20 p.m. Sports Spindle
10:30 p.m. WFTV Theater

Call letters live on

While WFTV went off the air in Duluth in 1954, its call letters found new life in the 1960s when they were picked up by an Orlando, Fla., television station – where they remain to this day.

WFTV assistant program director Gordon Paymar (left) and women’s director Elizabeth M. Smith, as seen in a station ad in the News-Tribune on June 5, 1953.

WFTV staff

The staff of Duluth’s WFTV at the time the station went on the air, according to a station ad in the News Tribune:
James C. Cole, manager
Robert Potter, program director
Gordon Paymar, assistant program director
Ernest Orchard, public service director
Elizabeth M. Smith, women’s director
Norman Gill, chief engineer
Douglas Cole, assistant chief engineer
Theodore Steinberger, engineer
Roger Elm, engineer
Lee Butkiewicz, engineer
Fred Badecker, engineer
Elgie Mae Carter, traffic director
Harvey Wick, film procurement director
Tony Marta, account representative
Thomas Fiege, account representative
Mildred Reed, secretary

WFTV Channel 38, Duluth’s first TV station, shared studio space with WEBC Radio in a building at the corner of Superior Street and Fourth Avenue West, in what was later called the Palladio Building. This view is from the mid-1950s. (News Tribune file photo)

Here’s the full text of an article about WFTV that ran in the News Tribune on June 5, 1953, two days before it started broadcasting:

TV in Duluth starts Sunday


Television broadcasting will get under way in Duluth at 2 p.m. Sunday when WFTV goes on the air over Channel 38.

The opening program will mark the start of a new form of mass communication in the Head of the Lakes area. It will make available to this area a type of broadcasting which up to now has been received on a catch-as-catch-can basis from the Twin Cities.

Actually, WFTV has been on the air for a number of days already, but with a test pattern only. The test pattern has been on the air to give TV owners a chance to adjust their sets to receive UHF, the ultra-high frequency wave length on which WFTV will broadcast. That test pattern will continue on a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule until the opening broadcast.


Before the test pattern went on the air, there was wide difference of opinion on whether there would be “shadow” areas at the Head of the Lakes into which the TV picture would not reach. WFTV officials said last night that so far, extensive testing has established no complete shadow areas in Duluth. They said they now have TV sets receiving the test pattern in all parts of the Duluth-Superior area.

The pattern also has been received all along the South Shore as far as Ironwood, Mich., and along the North Shore as far as Grand Marais.

The test pattern was run primarily to enable conversion of VHF sets to the UHF band. Most of the sets in Duluth prior to the coming of WFTV were adjusted only for the VHF type of broadcasting emanating from the Twin Cities.

Although it has been established that the TV picture will be received in most parts of the area, there is considerable experimenting going on yet with antennas. In some places the bow-tie antenna, or some version of it, is working best. Some owners are receiving the UHF signal clearly on their old antennas, and in a few cases the signal has come in with only an inside antenna Some isolated areas have had difficulty adjusting sets.


WFTV’s regular broadcast schedule will include programs daily from 2 to 11 p.m. Sunday’s program, however, will run until midnight.

Among features planned Sunday are opening ceremonies at 2 p.m. The coronation will be shown from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

The station will carry a number of network as well as local shows, according to James C. Cole, station manager. Network shows will be carried on film, as there is no direct wire or microwave link between WFTV and the TV networks.

However, Cole said, the Duluth audience will see many of the network shows at the same time as other parts of the nation. He said most of that type of shows are prepared in advance on films and released simultaneously all over the country.

Among the shows the station will carry will be such drama features as Dragnet, The Web, I Love Lucy; drama featuring Robert Montgomery; and such kiddie serials as Flash Gordon and Rocket to the Moon. Other features will include Arthur Godfrey, Groucho Marx, the Hit Parade, Toast of the Town, the Dennis Day show and Philco TV Playhouse.

Also on film will be the “Telenews,” the daily highlights of newsreel films. “Live” shows will be produced locally and will include news, interviews, music and the demonstration type of programs.

WFTV will share two hours of its broadcast schedule with Arrowhead Television Network, an affiliate of WEBC radio. WFTV studio and tower facilities were leased from WEBC in exchange for the two hours of air time. The ATN organization will be on the air daily from 3 to 4 p.m. and from 5:30 to 6 and 6:30 to 7 p.m. The two organizations will operate independently.


And here’s is a copy of the complete TV schedule for WFTV, along with Twin Cities stations KSTP and WCCO, from June 8, 1953 (as with all the images here, click on it for a larger version):