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.

The steepest streets in Duluth

Looking out over downtown from atop Duluth’s steepest street – Fifth Avenue West, at its intersection with Sixth Street, April 2012. (Andrew Krueger / News Tribune)

This blog chronicles many things that have changed in Duluth over the years, but here’s an entry on something that’s as much a topic of discussion today as it was 50 years ago – the steep streets downtown. They certainly can keep life interesting – take this mishap from 1984.

Back in February 1998, the News Tribune looked at life on what often is cited as THE steepest street in town – Fifth Avenue West, above Mesaba Avenue. Here’s that story:

A DIFFERENT SLANT OF LIFE

PEOPLE WHO LIVE AND WORK ON DULUTH’S STEEPEST STREETS TAKE THE UPS AND DOWNS IN STRIDE

By Chuck Frederick, News-Tribune staff writer

Angela Szymecki leaned into the hillside and climbed slowly to the top of the mercilessly steep street. Her leg muscles screamed as she clutched a railing and reminded herself not to slip. She didn’t want to fall. Not here. Not on Fifth Avenue West, perhaps the steepest of Duluth’s many steep streets.

In a city built on the side of a hill, a city that is sometimes compared to San Francisco, thousands of Duluthians live and work on the hillside. Many of them think nothing of it. They buy four-wheel drive vehicles, take roundabout routes home during snowstorms, and then turn their front tires toward the curb when they park.

But on some streets people can’t help but think about the hill. They can’t help but wonder, “If I fall down will I stop rolling before I splash into the harbor?”

“It is dangerous walking up and down this hill,” said Szymecki, a two-year resident on Fifth Avenue West, which has a 25 percent grade between Fifth and Sixth streets. That compares to a 19 percent grade on the steepest ski run at Spirit Mountain, the Gandy Dancer.

“I slipped just the other day,” Szymecki said of her steep street. “And on just a little piece of ice. That scared me.”

Living and working on the face of a dropoff can be hairy. Concessions must be made to the terrain. Difficulty in moving around during the winter is something you just come to accept.

But it also can be fun, some residents say. There’s something very Duluth about it, something rugged and adventurous, a pride that comes from knowing you live somewhere others don’t dare visit.

Unless they’re looking for an extreme workout, most joggers choose the same route across Fifth Avenue West, rather than up or down the steep street. Between Fifth and Sixth street, the avenue’s grade is 24 percent. (Bob King / News Tribune) Note that many of the trees lining the street in this photo from January 1998 are no longer standing in the present-day view atop this post.

Bruce McLean feels that rush. From the back of Szymecki’s home, his voice is dripping with an attitude flatlanders will never understand.

“Did you mention the goats?” he shouted before stepping into the front room, grinning. “The billy goats we saw walking up here the other day? Did you mention them?”

“Very funny, Bruce,” retorted Luke Szymecki, Angela’s 16-year-old son and Bruce’s friend.

“I rode my bike down that hill once,” McLean continued, still grinning. “Only once. I looked back up and decided to sell it to a passerby at the bottom of the hill.

“My girlfriend is afraid to drive up it,” he said, being a little more serious. “I’ve got to walk down there and meet her and then drive her car up for her. It’s crazy.”

“And it’s just crazy to park here,” Luke said. “I assume your car would just end up at the bottom of the hill every time.”

Mail carrier Jack Harmon has been parking his postal truck on Fifth Avenue West for 14 years.

“It can be difficult,” he said of this portion of his route. “But the city takes pretty good care of the streets and most of the people do real good to keep their steps clear. I’ve gotten so used to (the hillside), I actually look forward to the exercise. I’ve gotten to know the people there so well, too. If I didn’t deliver there, I’d miss our little chats every day.”

Arne Sather delivers mail to the top half of the avenue. He, too, has come to accept the hill as just another part of the job. He has even developed a sense of humor about it.

“The guy who used to have this route, he wound up with one leg shorter than the other,” Sather said, his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. “You have to do the route backwards every couple of days to keep yourself even.

“But the best thing to do is park and walk,” he said, more seriously. “Driving on those hills is tough. There are days you just can’t control the truck there.”

You don’t have to tell that to the city workers who plow Duluth’s steepest streets. Tony Budisalovich has been plowing Fifth Avenue West for 10 years.

“I’ve slid from Sixth to Fifth in a second and a half,” he said. “I’ve done full-circle spins. You just hold on and go. There’s nothing you can do. It’s like on a skating rink. It happens so fast. It’s over with before you can really get scared. But afterward you shake. You just sit there and shake.”

Budisalovich likes to drive his grader backward up the avenue — not because it’s easier to climb the hill, but because he wants to see where he’s going if he should slide back down.

“It’s a challenge,” he said. “I’m waiting another three years for another guy to retire. Then I can take his route. Let someone else take a turn at this.”

Shoveling, driving and even just walking can be a challenge on a steep street, says Angela Szymecki, seen here in January 1998. She lives near the top of Fifth Avenue West, perhaps the steepest of Duluth’s many steep streets. (Charles Curtis / News Tribune)

Most of Duluth’s steepest streets are in Central Hillside, Goat Hill and Lincoln Park (West End). But a pair of streets near the top of the city’s steepest list are found over the hill. St. Paul Avenue and Minneapolis Avenue, both in the Woodland neighborhood, ranked fifth and sixth with grades of 20 and 19 percent, roughly the same as the Spirit Mountain’s steepest ski run.

That doesn’t surprise Doug Sanders. He has lived at the bottom of Minneapolis Avenue, near Isanti Street, since 1942, back when the avenue was first nicknamed “Steep Minnie.”

Sanders remembers neighbors throwing ashes from their coal furnaces onto the road to help motorists climb the hill.

“People who lived up there had to get up the hill,” he said. “Those ashes and clinkers helped.”

Sanders also remembers sledding down the avenue as a boy, back when there wasn’t as much traffic and cars didn’t go so fast.

“We’d keep one kid at the bottom of the hill as a lookout, and then down we’d go,” he said.

Kids still play on the hill, zooming down on their bikes, sleds or in-line skates.

“I’ve seen the neighbor kids take their Roller Blades down it,” said Mary Kettelhut of Minneapolis Avenue. “That’s horrifying. I pray no cars are coming across at the time.”

A block over on St. Paul Avenue, the steep hill stopped bothering Jennifer Lewis the day she bought a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Gone are the days when she had to shout into the back seat to remind the kids to hang on because Mom was turning into the driveway.

“We don’t have any problems, but we still see a lot of cars getting stuck here,” Lewis said. “They’ll try to make it up the hill, but they’ll get stuck, so they’ll have to back down, and then they’ll slide and wind up getting stuck in the woods. Then someone has to call a tow truck.

“It is hard to make it up and down some days,” Lewis said. “But it’s where we live. We love it here. We make the best of it.”

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Mail carrier Jack Harmon makes sure he sets his parking brake before delivering mail to a house off Fifth Avenue West in January 1998. After 14 years on the route. Harmon says he’s accustomed to steep streets. “I actually look forward to the exercise,” he says. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

Here’s a list that ran with the story back in 1998:

Duluth steepest streets

Some streets in Duluth are actually steeper than the steepest run at Spirit Mountain. The Gandy Dancer ski hill has a 19 percent grade. These streets are at least that steep:*

Streets and grade

1. Fifth Avenue West between West Fifth and West Sixth Streets — 25% — Rises 80.788 feet in 320.239 feet

2. 17th Avenue West above West Third Street — 24% — Rises 37.616 feet in 158.707 feet

3. W. Seventh Street above Piedmont Avenue — 21% — Rises 54.820 feet in 256.960 feet

4. 19th Avenue West above Old Piedmont Avenue in Goat Hill. — 21% — Rises 42.343 feet in 197.869 feet

5. St. Paul Avenue between Isanti and Anoka avenues — 20% — Rises 51.114 feet in 260.366 feet

6. Minneapolis Avenue between Isanti and Anoka avenues — 19% — Rises 61.307 feet in 318.738 feet

7. West Fourth Street above Piedmont Avenue — 19% — Rises 65.854 feet in 338.615 feet

Minneapolis Avenue in the Woodland neighborhood, seen here in January 2002, has gained a legendary reputation for its steep slope that rivals the steepest run at Spirit Mountain ski resort. The street is usually a haven for kids on bikes, in-line skates and sleds. (Justin Hayworth / News-Tribune)

Here are some other steep Duluth streets:

– Eighth Avenue West above West Third Street — 18% — Rises 58.420 feet in 319.687 feet

– Fourth Avenue West below Mesaba Avenue — 17% — Rises 51.312 feet in 307.957 feet

– First Avenue East between East Sixth and East Seventh streets — 17% — Rises 51.408 feet in 306.421 feet

– Park Street between Livingston and Morningside avenues — 17% — Rises 48.723 feet in 289.757 feet

– West Sixth Street above Piedmont Avenue — 16% — Rises 32.522 feet in 199.730 feet

– 26th Avenue East between London and Greysolon roads — 15% — Rises 46.058 feet in 314.733 feet

– 22nd Avenue West above Piedmont Avenue — 14% — Rises 20.838 feet in 154.139 feet

– Fourth Avenue East from Superior to First streets — 13% — Rises 39.190 feet in 297.699 feet

– 19th Avenue East above Superior Street — 12% — Rises 35.249 feet in 293.994 feet

– 21st Avenue East between London Road and Superior Street — 11% — Rises 35.767 feet in 311.500 feet

– Mesaba Avenue above West Seventh Street — 10% — Rises 38.888 feet in 390.875 feet

– Piedmont Avenue above Seven Corners — 9% — Rises 27.560 feet in 317.032 feet

– Piedmont Avenue below Seven Corners — 7% — Rises 32.743 feet in 437.008 feet

*There may be steeper streets in Duluth than some included here. These lists are not intended to be “Top-10” style rankings. Some streets were included solely because they are well-traveled, allowing easy comparisons to steeper but lesser-known roadways.

Source: The Lake Superior College Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineering Technicians.

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Share your steep-street stories and memories – and tell us if there’s a steep street missing from these lists – by posting a comment.

Corner of Superior and Fourth Avenue East, 1959

This photo from the News Tribune files, which appears to be dated 1959, shows the north side of Superior Street looking from the corner of Fourth Avenue East. The site of the building being torn down in this picture is now the home of Voyageur Lakewalk Inn. Click on the photo for a larger view.

The back of the photo has the address of the doomed building – 329 E. Superior – and the word “landmark,” without further explanation. Can anyone shed light on this mystery? Why would this building have been a landmark, or otherwise special for some reason?

According to a 1959 city directory (and confirmed by a small sign in the window), the last occupant of the building was Speedometer Service auto repair. Next door at 331, in a structure already razed by the time this photo was taken, the 1959 directory lists Larry’s Clutch & Brake Service, George-N-Henry outboard motors and a few apartment tenants.

To the left…

… in 1959 the building at 323 E. Superior, the facade of which is just visible, housed The Antrobus Shop, a women’s clothing store. The sign right below the shop’s billboard points the way to Hutchinson’s used car lot across the street.

The Antrobus Shop building survives today – it apparently now houses a tattoo shop – tucked between the Voyageur Lakewalk Inn and the Hacienda del Sol restaurant building.

At upper right (perhaps better seen in the full picture), you can see the unique roof line of the Hemlock Garage building. And some of those buildings in the background, up along First Street, still stand today, though obscured from this vantage point by a parking ramp (see below).

Here’s one more zoomed-in view, of the demolition workers forever frozen in time atop the building:

Here are two present-day views of this site, starting with an approximate re-creation of the original photo:

And for a better view of the former Antrobus Shop building, here’s a look down the block to the west:

Share your memories by posting a comment.

Corner of Superior and Lake, circa 1930

This photo, which dates to about 1930, shows the corner of Superior Street and Lake Avenue in downtown Duluth; it’s looking east up Superior Street.

At far right in the Freimuth’s Department Store building, and the dominant facade across Lake Avenue belongs to the Bradley Building. Next door to the Bradley Building is a building that, in this photo, appears to be home to the Boston Piano Co. (see close-up below). It appears to be the same structure that housed the Famous Clothing Co. for many years, and which survives today as the home of the Electric Fetus music store.

Here are some zoomed-in views of the store signs (click on the photos for a larger view):

I’m basing the date for this photo (there’s no caption information) mostly on the movie playing at the Strand Theater, next door to Boston Piano Co. It’s “The Other Tomorrow” starring Billie Dove, which Internet sources say was released in 1930. Certainly the cars must give some clue to the date, too, but that’s not an area of expertise for me.

And one other thing I noted…

A former home of the News Tribune (then apparently known as the “T.N.T.” as opposed to the “DNT”), in a building that still stands today, in renovated form, as part of the Wieland Block development.

Spot anything else interesting in these images? Share your memories and stories 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 Duluth Central state basketball title celebration, 1961

March 1961

This month marks the 51st anniversary of the 1961 Duluth Central boys basketball team winning the state title with a 51-50 victory over Bemidji in the Twin Cities. Here are a few photos from the News Tribune archives of the celebration upon the team’s return to Duluth; click on the photos for a larger version:

For more on Central, take a look at this previous Attic post.

Share your memories by posting a comment.

Dugar Music Co. and the Kasbar, 1961

This is a “best of the Attic” post, which first appeared back in June 2008. Go to the original post for some comments from readers about the topic…

This News Tribune file photo from late fall or early winter 1961 shows the Dugar Music Co. store and the Kasbar at 220 W. Superior St. in downtown Duluth. The building has since been home to Mr. Nick’s and several other restaurants over the years; it now houses R.T. Quinlan’s Saloon and Jalapeno Express.

If you look closely at the poster to the left of the Kasbar door, you’ll see that it is advertising the Dec. 4, 1961, closed-circuit telecast of a heavyweight boxing title bout between Floyd Patterson and “Irish” Tom McNeeley, as well as a second bout between Sonny Liston and Albert Westphal:

The fights — Patterson-McNeeley in Toronto, and Liston-Westphal in Philiadelphia — were to be “shown in about 150 theatres and arenas in the United States and Canada,” according to a pre-fight article in the Duluth Herald, which called the telecast “a first in boxing.” In Duluth, the fights were shown at the Armory; tickets to the telecast were sold at the Kasbar.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, Patterson knocked out McNeeley in the fourth round, and Liston knocked out Westphal in the first round.

Here is a link to a full-color image of the same poster (except for the local reference at the top).

To share your memories about Dugar Music Co. and the Kasbar, post a comment.

Photos of winter in the Twin Ports in the 1980s

Before our snow disappears in the next few days – highs may reach the 50s by next week – I thought I’d take the chance to dig through the “winter” photo files in the News Tribune Attic and post some shots from the 1980s of people having fun – or at work – in the snow. Here they are…

Judy VanDell and daughter Kristin, 4, stroll by a snowman on top of a car at the corner of 24th Avenue West and Fourth Street on Dec. 3, 1986. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

First-graders at Congdon Elementary School roll a big snowball for the base of a snowman on March 10, 1986. Their teacher, Sharon Rud, said she let the kids build a snow village after their gym class was canceled that day. (Bob King / News Tribune)

Paul Guello sculpts the snowman’s face while assisted by his son Michael, 3, (far left) and neighborhood kids Christopher and Tiffany Lee, ages 6 and 3, at Superior’s Central Park on Nov. 24, 1986. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

Kids gather at Portland Square Park in Duluth on Nov. 22, 1986, to build a snow fort. They are, left to right, Katie McRae, 6; Shawn Hoffman, 10; Jeff Clasen, 6; Alex Ross, 11; and Jacob Akervik, 9. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

David O’Brien, 7, son of Don and Barb O’Brien, blasts down a sledding hill near Commonwealth Avenue in Gary on Jan. 25, 1985. He was sliding with his friend Mike McDevitt, 6. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

Kids from the West Duluth and Duluth Heights soccer clubs cooperated to roll two giant snowballs to use as the bases for goalposts for the game at Irving Field in West Duluth on Nov. 16, 1985. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

Susan Gross starts a seemingly insurmountable job shoveling wet, heavy snow in front of her house on Red Wing Street in Duluth on Nov. 29, 1983. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

Scott Tousignant, 11, makes a speedy descent of snow-covered stairs leading from Second Street to First Street at Sixth Avenue East in Duluth on Nov. 26, 1983. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

Mabel Smevoll, 84, sweeps a light dusting of snow from her walkway in West Duluth on Dec. 8, 1988. Smevoll said she loves to work even at her age, and said she was “making room for some more” snow. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

Harry Staaf, 85, clears his driveway along 27th Avenue West on Dec. 27, 1988. “If you’re going to live in Duluth, you gotta expect shoveling,” Staaf said. “By summer we will all forget this anyway.” (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

Ryan Wiisanen, 6, tosses a snowball at his aunt, Shirkey Uraniak, on Oct. 14, 1986, at Uraniak’s house in Maple. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

Gary Kniep heads home from the grocery store on Nov. 20, 1988, carrying the groceries and pulling his son Garrett, 4, down St. Marie Street near the UMD campus. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

A 6-foot-tall snowman on the corner of Second Avenue West and Superior Street in downtown Duluth caught a lot of glances and the attention of Kelly Larson, 3, and her mother, Sally, as they waited for her dad, Jim, to join them for shopping on Dec. 14, 1988. The snowman’s creator was not known to nearby shop employees. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

Trina, Mark and Charity Hansen of Duluth take a snowy glide down a hill near Portland Square in Duluth on Nov. 5, 1988. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

Do you recognize the people in any of these photos? Are you one of the people in these photos? Share your memories by posting a comment.

Another of the Northland’s legendary characters passes away

First, Richard Wozniak of Duluth’s Young at Heart Records passed away Feb. 18 at age 94.

Now, Charlotte Zacher, the longtime owner of Charlotte’s Cafe in Carlton, has died at age 99 (just a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday). Charlotte was known far and wide for wearing elegant evening gowns (and many other unique outfits) behind the counter of the cafe she ran for more than 60 years. You can read the obit I wrote for the News Tribune here. For those who may know her more by sight than by name, here’s a News Tribune file photo from 1980, of Charlotte sitting in her cafe:

Richard and Charlotte both were institutions of their respective communities for decades – a little eccentric, yes, but very much a part of the local fabric. After their respective businesses closed, they faded from the public eye; their passing has revived many memories and stories in the minds of Northland residents.

I may post a few more photos and stories about Charlotte here in the Attic later this week (if those plans aren’t derailed by the big winter storm forecast to move in here the next few days). In the meantime, please share your memories by posting a comment. And if you can think of other Northland characters of the likes of Richard Wozniak and Charlotte Zacher, please share those names and stories, too.

Duluth’s most flammable building?

This view from the 11th floor of the Medical Arts Building shows the extent of the damage to scaffolding on the Northwestern Bell building after a fire on Nov. 27, 1983. (Jack Rendulich / News Tribune)

This is a “best of the Attic” post – something I originally posted on this blog more than four years ago, but which many of you may not have seen yet.

In the early 1980s, the Northwestern Bell building in downtown Duluth was plagued by never-ending repairs that left it sheathed in scaffolding for years. And then, twice, that scaffolding burned in what were described as “spectacular” fires. The photo above is the aftermath of the first; here’s a photo of the smoke plume from the second:

Thick, black smoke rises from the Northwestern Bell Telephone Co. in downtown Duluth on Wednesday after scaffolding on the building caught fire on Jan. 16, 1985. (Joey McLeister / News Tribune)

Read more about the fire in this previous post. And read about the construction of the building in this previous post.

The Northwestern Bell building became home to Qwest, and now CenturyLink, as companies merged and changed names. It seems to have mostly shed its flammable ways, though if I remember correctly a power transformer exploded under the sidewalk in front of the building a few years back.

So would these two big fires place this building among Duluth’s most flammable? Perhaps it would be competing with the Kozy Bar and Apartments. Or is there another, more fire-plagued structure in town?

Share your thoughts and memories by posting a comment.