Bear in a boat in Duluth, 1944

This post has been updated to include new information…

Over the years, many people have sent photos to the News Tribune for one reason or another. Sometimes the paper has asked for reader submissions; other times people have sent pictures unsolicited, for the DNT to keep, viewing the paper as a kind of repository for local history.

Many of those photos – sent years, if not decades ago – are hanging around in the Attic without much information to explain the stories behind the images. Here’s a series of five unusual reader-submitted photos showing a bear sitting in a boat in the Minnesota Slip, now home to the William A. Irvin ore boat. The only caption information with them was: “Taken by Einar Amundson. Bear jumped into boat in the canal.”

After putting out a call for more information on Sunday night, Duluth author and historian Tony Dierckins provided the answer:

The tragic story of this bear is retold in the book, “Crossing the Canal: An Illustrated History of Duluth’s Aerial Bridge”:

“An incident in 1944 was far less tragic, but nonetheless unfortunate. A black bear found its way to the slips behind Marshall-Wells, jumped in the bay, and swam into the canal. Three Park Point residents—E. A. Thorleson, age twenty-four; Michael Gauthier, eighteen; and Donald Parker, fourteen—set out in a small boat to rescue the bear and return it to the wild. The bear didn’t appreciate their efforts. Thorleson tried to lasso the bear, but missed; the bear used the rope to claw onto the boat, where it bit its would-be rescuer and tore his pants. Thorleson and his companions abandoned ship. The Coast Guard then towed the boat to the docks, where they successfully lassoed the bear and attempted to pull it onto the pier. But the bruin wouldn’t budge, and officials, deciding it was too dangerous to help, shot it to prevent further trouble.”

This is an excerpt from a longer piece called “Casualties of the Canal.” You can read the whole piece on Zenith City Online.

So, unfortunately, not a happy ending to the story behind these quirky photos. Thanks to everyone who posted a comment so far. If you have anything more to add about this bear – or if you have other tales of odd animal encounters in the Twin Ports – please post a comment.

Aerial views of Duluth

Old aerial photos always offer a lot of interesting opportunities to see what has changed and what has stayed the same. Here are a few aerial photos of Duluth from the early 2000s, from the News Tribune archives. Click on the images for a larger view:

This photo from October 2003 shows the area just east of downtown Duluth, prior to major expansion by what is now Essentia Health, and also before construction of the Sheraton Hotel. (Derek Neas / News Tribune)

The reconstruction of Piedmont Avenue is under way in this view from June 2004. (Derek Neas / News Tribune)

An aerial view over downtown Duluth and the Central Hillside in June 2002. (Derek Neas / News Tribune)

A view of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center in August 2003, before the addition of the Duluth 10 movie theater, Amsoil Arena and an additional parking structure. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)

Share your memories by posting a comment.

37th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

 

The freighter Edmund Fitzgerald is guided by the tug Vermont under the Blatnik Bridge and through the opening in the Interstate Bridge, circa 1960. (News-Tribune file photo)

Today – Nov. 10, 2012 – is the 37th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald in a powerful Lake Superior storm. The crew of 29, including several men from the Northland, died when ship, heading from Superior to Detroit with a load of taconite, sank off Whitefish Point in eastern Lake Superior on Nov. 10, 1975.

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, this 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. Find more information about the ceremony here.

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

And here’s a photo I took a little later that afternoon, of the lighthouse shining out over Lake Superior from its lofty perch:

Share your stories and memories by posting a comment.

The wreck of the Thomas Wilson

At 10:40 on a clear, calm Saturday morning almost exactly 110 years ago, the inbound freighter George G. Hadley collided with the outbound whaleback steamer Thomas Wilson just off the Duluth Ship Canal in what the News Tribune reported was “one of the most spectacular and disastrous marine catastrophes” of the time.

The Wilson sank in minutes on June 7, 1902, with the loss of nine of its 21 crew. It still lies beneath the waves of Lake Superior within site of Canal Park and the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, where an exhibit on the wreck will be formally opened at 1 p.m. Monday.

The exhibit has been open for a while now. Center director Thom Holden said the it features some items that have been in the center’s collection for several decades, and some new acquisitions made in recent years from divers who recovered them from the wreck.

Here’s an account of the collision written by the News Tribune’s Chuck Frederick in May 1996, when the wreck site was named one of Minnesota’s most endangered historic sites because of damage caused by ships’ anchors:

On a glorious June day in 1902, the whaleback steamer Thomas Wilson sailed quietly across glass-still water through the Duluth entry and into Lake Superior.

Less than a mile out, the wooden freighter George Hadley was changing course. The captain had decided not to enter the harbor in Duluth. He steamed the ship instead toward the Superior entry — and into the path of the Wilson.

Neither boat was able to yield. The nose of the 287-foot Hadley slammed into the broadside of the Wilson. She went down fast. Water poured into cargo holds that had been left unsecured. The captain figured he could save time by bolting down the hatch covers during the trip across the calm lake.

Within minutes, the Wilson’s mast was all that was left poking through the still water about a half-mile from the Duluth entry. The Hadley was able to beach itself along Minnesota Point where it could later be salvaged and repaired.

Nine crew members went down with the Wilson, a ship that is now part of Northland shipping lore. She was built in 1892 in Superior at the American Steel Barge Co., an ancestor to today’s Fraser Shipyards. The company was owned by Alexander McDougall, who designed the whaleback steamers, including the SS Meteor, a sister ship to the Wilson that now is open for tours on Superior’s Barker’s Island. The Wilson’s anchors are displayed on the lawn in front of the Marine Museum in Duluth’s Canal Park.

The wreck is popular among divers, who wait for northeasterly winds to push in clear water. But it’s not the ship it used to be, they say. “It has been utterly destroyed” by the anchors dropped by Great Lakes vessels, said Elmer Engman, a Proctor diver who owns Inner Space Scuba Equipment along Miller Trunk Highway.

“It looks like a ship that’s been in a war,” said Scott Anfinson of the State Historic Preservation Office in St. Paul. “It looks like someone’s been dropping bombs on it. Instead of colliding with one ship, it looks like it was hit by five or six boats all at once.”

The Wilson’s deck has been destroyed by the anchors, but the forward cabins and bow structure are still intact.

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Here are links to the front page and a jump page of the News Tribune from June 8, 1902, the day after the wreck. You can read the full account of the sinking of the Wilson, and also look at what else was making news 110 years ago:

Thomas Wilson wreck front page

Thomas Wilson wreck jump page

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June 7 is the anniversary of another well-known Lake Superior wreck – the America, which sank at Isle Royale on June 7, 1928. The history website Zenith City Online has a post about the America here.

The bow of the America can still be seen just beneath the surface – close enough to touch with an oar from a boat when I visited there in the 1990s.

Archive aerial views of the Twin Ports

I came across two (and was e-mailed a third) old aerial photos of the Twin Ports. Here they are (click on the photos for a larger view):

View over the West End and the Rice’s Point rail yards toward the Blatnik Bridge, 1970. (News Tribune file photo)

This photo shows construction of Interstate 35 (and I-535), including parts of the “Can of Worms” interchange, in 1970. The Blatnik Bridge, seen in the distance, had already been open for several years at the time of this photo; its traffic was directed onto Garfield Avenue (where you can see part of Goldfine’s-by-the-Bridge Department Store).

The photo also captures a sliver of the West End business district. Here’s a closer view of Superior Street:

From left to right, you can see a DX service station / car wash; Enger & Olson furniture (with J & J Phillips 66 service station across Superior Street); 19th Avenue West; and the West End Liquor Store, with a billboard on the side that reads “Scotch Scotch” (perhaps Ron Burgundy could have shopped there back in the day).

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Here’s a view of the Burlington Northern ore docks in Superior from 1977. The Mesabi Miner is berthed at the ore dock on the right. On the left, the nearer boat has “Inland Steel” on its side; I can’t make out the ship name, but it looks like the distinctive Edward L. Ryerson, which currently is in long-term layup at Fraser Shipyards just a few miles from where this photo was taken. The name of the third boat can’t been read in this picture.

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And courtesy of Gary Androsky over at the Superior Telegram, here’s an image from the Telegram’s files of Interstate 35 being extended through downtown Duluth in the 1980s – the tunnels are under construction in this view, which also provides a good look at much of downtown; click on the photo for a much larger image.

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Share your stories and memories by posting a comment.

Odds and ends old photos of Duluth

Here are some random old photos of Duluth from the News Tribune files that I just don’t have enough information about to build an entire post for each. So I’ll assemble them here (click on the photos for a larger view)…

Gowan-Peyton-Twohy Co. and other businesses and warehouses at the foot of Fifth Avenue West in Duluth, circa 1900, near where the Great Lakes Aquarium stands today. There are quite a few posters hanging on those low buildings to the left. Using a magnifying glass, I was able to (I think) read only one of them…

In the middle of this zoomed-in view is a poster showing a large horseshoe and (again, I think) the brand name Nev-R-Slip Shoes.

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This postcard view of the Duluth Ship Canal, circa 1902, predates construction of the Aerial Ferry Bridge.

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This photo is a copy of a copy (of a copy?) and is labeled “1873 – above Fourth Street.” It’s looking east toward Lake Superior. Here’s a slightly more-zoomed-in view:

Have any information about what you see in these photos? Share your memories and stories by posting a comment.

Photos of the Aerial Ferry Bridge

Before it was the Aerial Lift Bridge, the Duluth icon was the Aerial Ferry Bridge.

When the span linking Canal Park to Park Point first opened in 1905, a gondola – or “aerial ferry” carried passengers and vehicles across the ship canal. The bridge was converted to its present lift-and-lower span in the winter of 1929-30.

I’m unsure of the origin of the photos with this post; I don’t think they were taken as News Tribune photos. They may have been sent in by readers at one time, but they’ve been residing in dusty files upstairs here for years. Whatever the source, they offer some nice glimpses of the Aerial Ferry Bridge; click on each photo for a larger view:

Duluth’s Aerial Ferry Bridge as viewed from the Lake Superior side, circa 1918.

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Aerial Ferry Bridge viewed from Park Point side, circa April 1923. Signs on buildings to the right of the bridge structure on the far side read “Auto Transfer and Storage Co.” and (I think) “Hoopes Real Estate Loans.”

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Aerial Ferry Bridge viewed from Park Point side, April 1, 1923.

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Boarding the Aerial Ferry Bridge gondola from Park Point, April 1923.

Share your memories and stories by posting a comment.

Warehouse Bar, 1984

July 27, 1984

Butch Curran, owner of the Warehouse Bar, stands in the newly opened dance area attached to the bar and grill on July 23, 1984. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

It’s cool down at the Warehouse

By Bob Ashenmacher, News-Tribune staff writer

The surprise hit of this year’s Grandma’s Marathon weekend was the Warehouse.

Locals among the multitudes at Canal Park were surprised to hear live music pulsing from the big brick garage at 408 S. First Ave. E. It looked less like a nightclub than like the 67-year-old former ice house it is.

But some 500 people crammed in to hear reggae-calypso kings Shangoya the night of race day. The funky brick-and-ventilator look was a perfect setting. Long beerhall-style tables imparted a vaguely Germanic feel, as if one was catching the Beatles at the Star Club in Hamburg. Two huge freight doors were opened to let cool breezes in and attract onlookers, who were kept out by snow fencing. There was an exciting street dance feel.

Co-owner Butch Curran has decided to try offering live music on a regular basis. He had local blues purveyors The Wingtips last Friday night and Twin Cities rockers the Flamin’ Oh’s on Saturday. The Oh’s drew 300, even with a $3 cover charge and lots of free music outside at the Fog Fest.

Tonight it’s the Wingtips again, with Shangoya back on Saturday.

“We’ll try it at least through summer and fall,” Curran said. He plans to use more local bands when UMD resumes classes. The music area is adjacent to the Warehouse Bar, which is nearly three years old. Curran may give the new area its own name soon and is considering The Terminal. Entrance will still be through the Warehouse, he said.

Local club owners have been getting away from live music with depressing regularity the last couple of years. So why did Curran and his mostly silent partner Dick Hicks get into it?

“I saw some statistics the Marine Museum had on the number of people who come down into this area in the summer,” Curran said. “And I had the space. All I was using it for was storage.”

Vending wagons are parked near the entrance to the Warehouse Bar on Aug. 6, 1986, after being moved from Burger King next door in Canal Park. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

Curran brought in Charlie Sobczak, a local music promoter formerly with the Norshor Theater, to choose which acts to offer.

“I initially said, ‘Let’s try something outdoors,’ ” Sobczak said. “Butch said, ‘I know June too well.’ ”

The hall is a cavern-like 106 feet long and 45 feet wide, with a 23-foot-high ceiling. The walls still are dotted with a few chunks of the 5-inch-thick cork that used to insulate the ice blocks against summer heat. Large elevated areas on either end would make fine balconies. There’s plenty of room for a stage, two bars and a dressing room, should Curran’s plans go that far.

“We’re trying to decide now how much we should do,” he said. “Some people have told us that the crudeness of it is good.”

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I don’t have any more information about the Warehouse Bar, other than I know a lot of people remember it. Do you know when it closed? Share your memories by posting a comment.

Duluth’s long-gone King Neptune statue

Reader John Michel e-mailed a couple of photos earlier this month of the 26-foot-tall King Neptune statue that used to grace Canal Park from 1959 to 1963. There’s this view from a postcard:

And then this view from the other side that he found online; I don’t have a source, so if you know where it came from, let me know and I’ll post the proper credit:

This photo was reversed hen I first posted it; it’s correct now.

The statue had a brief but tumultuous history in Duluth. The News Tribune’s Chuck Frederick did a great job of recounting the tale in a column that ran September 9, 2006. Here it is:

STATUE OF LIMITATIONS

By Chuck Frederick, News Tribune

Sometimes olden is just old. Not historic. Not significant. And when gone, not a lost treasure. Just lost.

So goes the story of Duluth’s King Neptune. Memories of the 26-foot, 2,000-pound statue that once stood guard over the Duluth ship canal were sparked this summer when Duluth historian and postcard collector Tony Dierckins came across a card featuring the mythical Roman god of the sea. Dierckins dropped me a whatever-happened-to e-mail and the News Tribune published a call for answers — and memories.

The story that emerged, disappointingly, wasn’t nearly as golden as Duluth’s once-proud painted statue.

“Neptune was a hunk of junk,” Duluth’s Lyle Bergal recalled. “Depressing to look at. An eyesore. It was just a disgrace to the city.”

However, as Bergal also recalled, the statue didn’t start out that way. In fact, the big guy was heralded by Duluth Mayor E. Clifford Mork as a “tremendous tourist attraction,” especially among “picture-taking travelers” in 1959, shortly after the Minnesota State Fair Board voted to donate the statue to Duluth. Neptune had been on display during the Great Minnesota Get-Together to commemorate the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The city’s chamber of commerce, visitors bureau, and retail merchants association came up with the cash to truck Neptune from St. Paul to Lake Superior. At least a dozen businesses provided men or equipment to load and unload Duluth’s newest resident.

With a trident in one hand and a replica of the Ramon de Larrinaga, the first large ocean-going vessel to reach Duluth, in the other, Neptune was hoisted with a crane onto a concrete base not far from the maritime museum. The late-fall dedication was well attended, and D.T. Grussendorf, the State Fair Board member from Duluth who was honored for nabbing Neptune, said the statue exemplified Duluth’s “rugged individualism” and “tenacity.”

“City officials and civic boosters made a big deal about its unveiling,” longtime News Tribune columnist Jim Heffernan recalled. They sure did. Mayor Mork even christened the statue by smashing a bottle of champagne. Luckily, he aimed at the concrete base.

Lucky because, within weeks, Neptune began showing his true quality — or lack thereof. Small stones thrown up on shore by Lake Superior’s waves punched holes into his robe. That despite Neptune’s reported construction of durable fiberglass and a weather-proof plastic composite.

The following spring, Neptune had to be patched and repainted, a maintenance job city crews wound up repeating annually. “He was awfully hard to keep repaired,” Charles K. Ulsrud, the city’s superintendent of buildings and grounds told the Duluth Herald in 1963. “We just couldn’t keep him from falling apart.”

The losing battle wasn’t helped when kids and other vandals threw stones at Neptune or kicked holes into him. The city had to spend about $300 a year — nearly $2,000 today — for paint and patching material. And that’s a figure that doesn’t include workers’ time.

“He was quite an expense for the city and he never really did look good,” Ulsrud said. “If the city’s going to have such a statue, it should be constructed of a more durable material.”

As it turned out, Neptune’s plastic and fiberglass construction was only durable in a thin layer on the outside. The rest of his body, it was later discovered, was made of papier-mache, the “stuff kids use in school to make toy figures,” as the Herald reported.

“Papier-mache does not do well in Northland winters nor does it hold up to the occasional fall storm and high waves,” Thom Holden, director of the Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center, pointed out via e-mail.

After only four years in Canal Park, a battered Neptune was in desperate need of major repairs. City crews, using blow torches to dismantle the pipes that held him in place, went to work to take him down in June 1963.

That’s when Neptune’s true construction material was first realized. The statue caught fire and, within minutes, was reduced to ashes.
“Duluthians had mixed emotions about Neptune,” the Herald reported on its front page on June 4, 1963. “Many thought him to be unutterably ugly and wondered why he faced out to the ship canal rather than toward the park, where he could be seen. Some thought the old fellow had been neglected, that one of his stature deserved better care.”

He probably did.

“It was a gallant effort,” Bergal said, referring especially to the good intentions that brought Neptune north.

“There are postcards and memories of his presence,” wrote Holden. And “there are still those nights … that he occasionally pays a visit to escort a lonely vessel through the canal.”

In concluding its coverage of the Neptune inferno in 1963, the Herald reported: “Fire officials declined to estimate the loss.”

Tough to put a dollar figure on an “eyesore” and “disgrace,” I guess.

Not a lost treasure. Not this time. Just lost.

-end-

Share your memories of the Neptune statue by posting a comment.

Mighty Thomas Carnival memories

For close to 40 years, the Mighty Thomas Carnival has been a summer tradition in Duluth. It’s back again this week, at Bayfront Festival Park (in years past it was held in the DECC parking lot, but that site got a lot smaller with the construction of Amsoil Arena).

Duluth School Police Patrol members Steve Eklund, 12, and Bryan Hill, 11, react during a roller coaster ride at the Mighty Thomas Carnival in Duluth on June 10, 1986. They are crossing guards at Chester Park School. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

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Nicole Giddings of Duluth flies high on a ride at the Mighty Thomas Carnival on June 10, 1988. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

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Reactions are varied on the faces of (left to right, front row) Jeff Lien, Chris Reilly and Mike Johnson, and (back row) Jane Page and Chris Chambers as they ride the Super Hurricane ride at the Mighty Thomas Carnival in Duluth on June 7, 1986. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

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Francie Linn, 7, Sarah Toffoli, 4, and Amie Austin, 10, all of Duluth, clutch the bar in the front seat of a roller coaster at the Might Thomas Carnival in Duluth on June 17, 1982. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

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Worker Carlo Magliano of Duluth looks as if he’s about to be ingested by the “Moonwalk” at the Mighty Thomas Carnival in Duluth on June 16, 1983. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

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Carnival-goers line up to buy ride tickets at the Mighty Thomas Carnival in Duluth on June 19, 1981. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

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Sea Dragon riders (left to right, front row) Shayne Renaud, Jackie Duvall and Dawn Duvall and (back row) Jodie Blegen, Tracey Myers and Kelly Archambeault enjoy the ride at the Mighty Thomas Carnival in Duluth on June 9, 1989. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

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A carnival worker named “Gliff” signals kids to board the Super Himalaya ride at the Mighty Thomas Carnival in Duluth on June 10, 1986.  (John Rott / News-Tribune)

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Seven of the 400 members of the Duluth School Police Patrol show varying emotions while riding the Sea Dragon at the Mighty Thomas Carnival in Duluth on June 9, 1986. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

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For more on the carnival, including its history and a look at all the other places it’s traveling this year, visit its website.

Share your memories of the Mighty Thomas Carnival by posting a comment.