120 years ago, ‘handsome and cultured’ Lakeside became part of Duluth

This detail from an 1890 map shows part of the village of Lakeside before it became part of the city of Duluth. (2007 file / News Tribune)

The end of one year and beginning of another can be a time of great change, as new laws and ordinances take effect. Such was the case 120 years ago, when the arrival of 1893 meant that the village of Lakeside became part of the city of Duluth.

As 1892 ended and 1893 began, “the new year was whistled in at midnight by all the mills and industries on the bay shore which had steam up,” the News Tribune reported on Jan. 1. There also was “a fusillade of revolver shots on Superior Street,” but police did not arrest the gun owner, “some license being allowed for exaggerated fun on such an occasion.”

And with the shots and whistles echoing around town, Lakeside residents found themselves living in Duluth. The News Tribune marked the annexation of “Duluth’s handsome, prosperous and cultured suburb to the east” in a Jan. 1, 1893, article:

“After about four years existence as a village under the general laws of Minnesota and with special powers since the legislative session of 1891, beautiful Lakeside, loveliest village on Superior’s shores, became at midnight, with the ringing of the new year’s bells, a part of Duluth, the solid and superb. As a bride to the altar, she came with good wishes and in rich attire. There was no formal marriage ceremony at this time, it having been performed by the legislature two years ago, to take effect on this New Year’s day, and by the mere striking of the clock she passed from an independent suburb to an inseparable part of the twinless city. …

Another detail from an 1890 map shows the village of Lakeside before it was annexed into the city of Duluth. (2002 file / News Tribune)

“In two years from today the whole head of the lake on the Minnesota side of the bay will be a single city stretching from Lester river to Fond du Lac, West Duluth coming in next New Year’s say and participating in the general municipal election of February 1894. Thus the several parts of the future great city are beginning to get together, and while congratulating Lakeside on the alliance it has made, it is equally in order to congratulate Duluth on this early exhibition of her magnetic powers. With excellent street car and steam railway service, delightful carriage drives, fine schools and churches, charming houses, beautiful and even romantic scenery, and a cultured, enterprising people, Lakeside is truly a gem of a city — an agate on a rock-bound coast. …

“With the mists of her own beautiful river as a bridal veil, with snow drops and snow drifts as flowers beneath her feet, we salute again the sunrise suburb, now our own, that has ever been a handsome frontispiece to Duluth.”

And so the village of Lakeside became the Lakeside neighborhood, and the city of Duluth took one more step toward consolidating various municipalities into the city we know today.

And, of course, the terms of the annexation agreement between Duluth and Lakeside stipulated that no bars or liquor stores were to be allowed in the neighborhood – and Lakeside remains “dry” to this day.

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Now here’s a little New Year’s bonus from the News Tribune of Dec. 31, 1912…

As Duluth prepared for New Year’s Eve 100 years ago, the Bridgeman-Russell dairy announced a special menu of its “velvet ice cream” to accompany celebrations to welcome in 1913. The flavors? Maple mousse, macaroon, bisque, almond, walnut and nesselrud. “Nesselrud” probably was Nesselrode, a mixture of preserved fruits and chopped nuts named after a 19th-century Russian statesman. The Bridgeman-Russell Co. advertised two locations — 13 E. Superior St. and 14-16 W. First St.

Gustafson’s Lakeside Bakery closes, 2003

April 26, 2003

Ted Gustafson (center) and sons Bill (left) and Bob are getting out of the bakery business. They have operated Gustafson’s Lakeside Bakery for 48 years. (Derek Neas / News-Tribune)

ONE LAST PIECE OF COFFEE CAKE

FINAL DAY: THE FAMILY-OWNED LAKESIDE BAKERY IS CLOSING ITS DOORS TODAY AFTER 48 YEARS IN BUSINESS

By Jane Brissett, News-Tribune staff writer

Add this to your list of things to do this morning: Stop at Gustafson’s Lakeside Bakery and stock up.

Today is its last day in business.

If you want to have a last taste of the Gustafson family’s special coffee cakes, fried cinnamon rolls, bismarcks and other goods — all made from scratch — put down that coffee cup and head to Lakeside right now before they sell out.

Within a couple of weeks, Johnson’s Bakery in the Lincoln Park/West End neighborhood expects to expand to a second location at the same 4509 E. Superior St. location occupied by Lakeside Bakery.

“I hope they don’t change the recipes,” said Karl Braafladt as he picked up a couple of items Friday morning.

The bakery, which has been in the same place since 1955, is a local institution and one of the few family-owned bakeries left in the city. It’s the only stand-alone bakery in Lakeside.

For about 50 years a group of men has been meeting for coffee at Gustafson’s Lakeside Bakery. And while the faces have changed, the tradition continues in April 2003 for Bob Klein (clockwise from left), Jerry Archer, William Keller, John Keturi, Cliff Hedman and George Lancour. (Derek Neas / News-Tribune)

It’s not only a place to pick up a loaf of bread or some cupcakes, but it’s a gathering spot. A group of male retirees has met there for coffee every morning since the bakery opened. While membership of the group has changed, the topics they discuss haven’t.

“We talk about politics, world affairs — you name it,” said William Keller, a member of the group. Many are veterans, John Keturi said. “We get quite a few war stories,” he said.

Ted Gustafson, 91, and his sons, Bill, 60, and Bob, 57, are retiring out of necessity. Their son and brother, Tom, who also helped run the business, died last year. They also have four other employees.

“We don’t really want to quit,” Bill Gustafson said. But he has severe arthritis. Both of his hips and knees and an elbow have been replaced. All of the heavy work has been left to him.

Bob Gustafson, however, has a bad back and will be having surgery soon. He won’t be able to work the job anymore, either. And Ted Gustafson, who has been at work at the bakery at 3:30 a.m. every day for 48 years, can’t do it alone.

“People are really shocked that we’re closing,” Bill Gustafson said.

Much of the bakery’s business comes from people who live and work in the Lakeside neighborhood, such as lifelong resident Dave Borgeson, who picked up a bag of goodies before he went to work at a nearby pharmacy Friday morning. (Derek Neas / News-Tribune)

Ted Gustafson is one of four brothers who each owned a bakery back in the 1950s. One was in Lincoln Park/West End, two were downtown and Ted’s was in Lakeside. His is the last one surviving.

At one time, Lakeside Bakery delivered daily to the Air Force base, City Hall, the courthouse and the Federal Building. For several years, they supplied East High School with glazed doughnuts for the students’ morning break.

But they have cut down in recent years and don’t routinely deliver anymore. The walk-in business keeps them going.

“We try to stick with stuff that sells fast and that people like,” Bill Gustafson said.

In some respects, Johnson’s Bakery is a natural successor to Gustafson’s. Scott Johnson, president and general manager of Johnson’s Bakery, said his late father, who founded his family’s bakery in 1946, knew Ted Gustafson.

There will be no party or speeches marking the closing, but Johnson’s praise makes an appropriate eulogy for Gustafson’s Lakeside Bakery:

“Nowadays, for anyone to be in business that long says they’re certainly doing something right.”

-end-

Laurie Edblom picks up pastries and cookies for her co-workers in April 2003 at Gustafson’s Lakeside Bakery. Bob Gustafson bags the order for her. (Derek Neas / News-Tribune)

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As noted in the story, Johnson’s Bakery took over the Lakeside Bakery location, and remains there to this day.

Share your memories by posting a comment.

The glory days of smelting in Duluth

A crowd of about 400 smelters gathers for a small run at the mouth of the Lester River on April 25, 1986. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

Up until the 1980s, one of the biggest gatherings in Duluth each year was the annual spring smelt run along the shore of Lake Superior and local rivers feeding into the lake.

Each spring, the call went out when smelt – a tiny fish – swarmed by the thousands to spawn. When the fish came, thousands of locals and visitors swarmed to scoop them up for smelt fries. In the 1970s, the Minnesota DNR even operated a “Smelt Information Headquarters” in the old Duluth Curling Club on London Road.

The smelt run took on a party atmosphere, and probably isn’t remembered very fondly by police and neighbors who had to put up with the rowdy crowds and litter. There are many articles in the News Tribune files from the 1970s covering meetings on what to do about smelting-related troubles.

There was at least one tragedy – in April 1981, two UMD freshmen at a smelting party were swept out into Lake Superior by the swift current of the Lester River, and drowned.

Whether loved or loathed, the smelt runs decreased over time, and largely died out through the 1980s and early 1990s. As the fish dwindled, so did the annual party on the banks of the Lester River.

Here’s a look back at some photos and articles about smelting from the News Tribune files:

Keith Buddish of Cloquet dumps a few smelt into a waiting bucket on the Lester River on April 23, 1986. Buddish was one of a growing number of people waiting with nets for the smelt run to begin. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

May 9, 1983

Rite of spring in full swing

News-Tribune

Duluth is a city of five seasons – spring, summer, fall, winter and smelt – but it’s that fifth one which causes a lot of natives to shake in their hip boots.

Smelting is the art of catching a silvery Lake Superior fish about the size of a toothpaste tube – squeezed almost dry – with fine-mesh dip nets or minnow seines. The smelt begin spawning runs into shallow waters and up Lake Superior tributaries along the lake’s South Shore and work their way clockwise to Duluth-Superior and the North Shore.

Although all shoreline communities are invaded by fishermen during the smelt runs of late April or early May, Duluth receives the greatest number with its Park Point beaches and abundance of rivers feeding Lake Superior.

The city’s Lester River is a Mecca of the net-dipping mania and, at peak weekends of the run, hundreds of visitors and residents mingle to catch, to watch and to party while the smelt move upriver. The crowds there and at Park Point require additional police and police auxiliary personnel – and an extensive daily cleanup effort each morning after the night before.

But even residents of those neighborhoods see some good with the arrival of the smelt and smelters: It’s a seasonal harbinger that spring is here and summer isn’t far off. -END-

Dave Anderson of Sparta Location, near Eveleth, holds his “trophy” smelt at the Lester River on May 5, 1983. Anderson and four others in his party netted only a bucketful of fish in two days. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

May 2, 1980

Smelting: A mad, springtime ritual of the night

By Pam Miller Brochu, News-Tribune

“YEOOOOWWWW!!!”

The young smelter, resplendent in waist-high waders and a BUST OPEC T-shirt, split the night air with his cry, hoisting the long-handled net in which flipped a single, startled smelt.

Ecstatic with beer and moonlight, the smelter grabbed the little fish in his muddy hand and bit its head off.

The most frenzied of spring rites, which might provoke an anthropologist’s scrutiny elsewhere, is a regular midnight occurrence on the Lester River as hordes of smelters, their inhibitions left at home, celebrate the catch of their first smelt.

The combination of a full moon, full beer kegs and crowd psychology turns the Lester into a prime night spot – or trouble spot, depending on your point of view – each year at this time, when the doomed smelt fight their way through hundreds of rubber boots at the mouth of Lake Superior rivers.

There was plenty of action Wednesday and Thursday nights, but it was subdued compared to what’s expected tonight, as the peak weekend opens.

There’s something for everyone in Lester River night life – pockets of absolute mania on some rock outcrops, quiet family gatherings on others. Small children risk their lives crossing the narrow, fast-moving current rushing into the lake; senior citizens sit in lawn chairs and take it all in.

Duluth police officer James Wright stands patrol on the Lester River bridge during smelting on April 25, 1986. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

Around 10 p.m. Wednesday, the smelt weren’t running heavily, but the smelters were. They poured into the area by car, cycle and foot. It was rush hour on the river, and Mike Ferrazi and Frank Ruby of the Lakehead Emergency Volunteers calmly directed crowds of pedestrians through the heavy traffic on the Lester River bridge.

“No problems so far,” shouted a cheerful Ferrazi over the hubbub. “Slow DOWN!” he yelled at some passing hotrodders. They ignored him. …

Down on the rocks, darker than usual because of the ban on fires, there were more partiers than smelters.

“This is the highlight of my year,” said one exuberant young man, sloshing his beer for emphasis. “You can really get crazy, you know? But don’t use my name. By day I’m real respectable … can’t blow my cover.” …

Rick LeBlanc of Hermantown surpassed tradition by biting the head off not just his first smelt, but about two dozen others, too, at the Lester River on May 5, 1983. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

There were many serious folks, too – those who came primarily to net smelt.

Don Uhlhorn, 27, and his wife, Mary Burmeister, 28, had come from Sandstone with three large buckets.

“I’ll spend all day tomorrow cleaning them, then divide them up in meal-size portions,” Uhlhorn said. “We give them to my folks, Mary’s folks, friends, neighbors and our cat.” …

“Smelting’s a tradition for us,” said Al Heins, who comes annually from Grand Rapids with his wife Linda and their children Jan, 17, and Lyndy, 16, to stay with Heins’ sister, Connie Merrill, 2525 E. Fourth St.

Oblivious of the icy water, Lyndy plunged into the river without waders. Jan was less enthusiastic. “It’s a heck of a long way to come for a few fish,” she said.

Elizabeth Rios of Newport, Minn., watches out for potential customers to her Marina’s Lunch Wagon during smelting at the Lester River on April 25, 1990. Rios, her husband and two daughters planned to stay as long as the season lasted. (Clara Wu / News-Tribune)

From the river, a smelter let loose a string of profanities. Pained, one mother covered her small daughter’s ears. The partiers and the families keep their distance from each other, and around midnight, the partiers take over.

But smelting, like television networks, has its family hour – before the sun goes down and before the smelt get thick. In the warm glow of Wednesday and Thursday evenings, the beach was crowded with children skipping stones and learning how to swish the nets.

Rick and Gayle Frenzen, 1017 N. Seventh Ave. E, were on their first-ever outing with Shawn, 2, and Ricky, 4, Wednesday.

“It’s a big thrill for the kids to get out here,” Gayle Frenzen said.

Ricky Jr. cast a line in the fashion of a four-year-old, almost hooking his father, who readied the smelting nets and buckets.

“I’m gonna catch a smelt,” he said solemnly. “A smelt four feet long.”

Hours later, around 3 a.m., the crowd thinned out, but the hardcore smelters left were pulling in nets heavy with fish – just as if the smelt had waited for the darkest, quietest hour to make their final run, unhampered by nets – and human teeth.

Bags of bottles, cups and cans give visitors Lucille and Ed Sobania of Little Falls, Minn., a good idea of what happened the night before on the Lester River on May 5, 1983. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

Share your smelting memories by posting a comment. If you have photos to share, e-mail them to akrueger(at)duluthnews.com.

Outdoor youth hockey

Outdoor youth hockey

Squirt hockey teams competing at the Lower Chester rink  in 1988. Bob King/News Tribune

Outdoor hockey hasn’t changed much, except maybe it had more people playing outside because of the lack of indoor arenas. I grew up playing youth hockey on outdoor rinks. One time we played with temperatures below zero and the goalies were allowed to play in Sorel boots and when your playing shift ended on the ice, instead of crawling over the boards to sit in a snow bank, you skated to the warming house to warm up. Ahh, the good old days.

Skaters enjoying the new hockey rinks at the Woodland Community Club in Duluth in 1985. Joey McLeister / News Tribune

Two new outdoor rinks were built 26 years ago at the Woodland Community Club in 1984, so here’s a sample of those youth hockey days at various Duluth neighborhoods during the 1980s.

If anyone has any interesting outdoor hockey experiences, feel free to share them.

–Dave N.

Bob Piertz (left) and Scott Haugen round a cone during a skating drill for the Lester Park squirt C team in 1986. Dave Ballard / News Tribune

Bjorn Gangeness smooths out the ice at Congdon Park in 1990. Clara Wu/News Tribune

Todd Kuusisto is carried to his face-off against Keefe Ebmer by referee Roger Hellgren during a tournament game between Merritt and Piedmont in 1984. Joey McLeister/News Tribune

Kevin Walsh (left) and Ben Hubert enjoy a moment of glory for the Piedmont Heights Squirt Ds in 1985. John Rott/News Tribune

Gabby’s Place, a Lakeside hangout

Marilyn McNeil and Ambrose Welle of Duluth leave after a visit to
Gabby’s Place in Lakeside. (1988 file / News Tribune)

Gabby’s Place in Lakeside was the quintessential neighborhood diner — a place to catch up on local gossip and debate the day’s headlines over coffee with the cafe’s regulars.

The Lakeside restaurant was part of a News Tribune series in 1988-89 devoted to distinctive Northland eateries. Called the Corner Cafe before it became Gabby’s Place, the restaurant was named for its owners at the time, John and Marty Gaboury.

A group of older gentlemen I talked to recently who used to frequent the cafe at 431 N. 45th Ave. E., and who have since moved their informal coffee club to the Lakeside Bakery, said Gabby’s Place closed shortly after Marty Gaboury died. They said the building then became a gift shop, and it’s now home to Edward Jones Investments.

I got the impression that the restaurant was not open very long as Gabby’s Place, because the group remembered the eatery better as the Corner Cafe. But there is nothing in the News Tribune’s archives to tell me when Gabby’s closed. Does anyone remember the Lakeside cafe and, if so, when it ceased to exist?

Refer to the 1988 article below for more about the establishment.

Martha Gaboury serves coffee to a full counter at Gabby’s Place. (1988 file / News Tribune)

Gabby’s crowd covers Lakeside news and more

By J.P Furst
Staff Writer

"How you doin’ Jer?"

"Threw my back out carrying Christmas presents," Jerry answered, reaching back to crack his vertebrae.

That introduced the subject of old age and mortality to the men gathered last week at the counter in Gabby’s Place, a culinary landmark in Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood. Like most great cafes, Gabby’s has a breakfast club of regulars who chew over the day’s headlines.

"Father Time," muttered one older man. "The Grim Reaper."

That’s all he said.

It was enough.

"This is where we solve all the problems of the world," cracked waitress Louise Hounsell. "Isn’t it, Sig?" Sig Einbu is the older guy mumbling about the Reaper. He nodded with some certainty.

Gabby’s Place, at 431 N. 45th Ave. E., is one of few cafes east of 27th Avenue East in Duluth. It’s been a neighborhood hangout, under one name or another, since 1939. 

"This is the gathering place for the Lakeside community to get together and catch up on what going on," Hounsell said. She should know. She’s been serving up meals at the cafe for 12 years.

"When we bought the cafe, the previous owner told me that Louise came with it," said Marty Gaboury, owner of the shop with her husband since last February. "They said if I ever sold it, you have to leave her here when you go."

Louise laughed and said, "I got passed on with the restaurant. I’m not sure how legal it all is." But she comes in only once a week now. "I just can’t stay away. I miss these guys," she said, gesturing with her thumb toward the men at the counter.

The green Formica counter is the L-shaped centerpiece of Gabby’s. Its edges worn smooth by generations of elbows at rest. The big windows look out on East Superior Streer and on the North Shore beyond.

The place feels like it’s on the edge of the woods, not at all in the city. "It’s a small town out here in Lakeside," Marty said. "The people here are just great people."

The previous owner had the place for about 13 years, Louise noted as she pulled out her red leather cigarette pouch. But he also worked on the lake boats, and he eventually returned to the boats full-time when he sold the East End eatery.

"He stops in whenever he’s in town," Marty said. "All six of the previous owners have stopped by now, including the woman who opened it in 1939." And some of the original customers still come by.

Marty Gaboury runs the cafe while her husband, John, a Navy man, is stationed in Norfolk, Va. Last week he was home for the holidays. They came to Duluth in 1985 when he was assigned to the Naval Reserve Center here. Marty waited tables and cooked in a couple of restaurants and was an assistant manager at Woolworth’s cafeteria before they bought the Lakeside cafe, remodeled it and changed the name from the Corner Cafe to Gabby’s, short for Gaboury.

The daily cast of characters at Gabby’s includes the owner of Loop Super Valu, Virgil Dock, who comes in wearing his white grocer’s apron and carries dice in his pocket. "He and his friends shake dice to see who pays for the coffee," Marty said.

The cast also includes Sig, a vital-looking man in his late 70s, dressed in a red-plaid wool jacket and a baseball-style cap with earflaps. He eats his breakfast at Gabby’s every morning, occasionally stops back at lunch and sometimes makes a third visit at the end of the day.

Next on the morning’s agenda of problems to be discussed: The weather. The cold winter coming. Everybody has both a gripe and a word of respect for the change of seasons.

"I don’t like that below-zero stuff," Sig said, digging into his steaming breakfast.

"I don’t mind 20-below," remarked his neighbor at the counter, a younger man in a navy-blue cardigan. "If it gets much colder than that, I know the difference." He glancecd out the large windows at the dark but temperate morning outside. "This is something we can live with, today."

Marty’s husband expects to retire in three years. Then she’ll have a little more help in keeping the place going.

"If I can build it up, we’ll keep going," said Marty, 54. "They’re a pretty nice bunch that hangs around here."