The Aerial Lift Bridge, located in Duluth, MN, was created as the gateway to the large natural harbor located in Northeastern Minnesota. Constructed in 1904, it was created to connect Minnesota point to the mainland of Duluth after a canal was dredged in 1870.
The digging of the canal began the illustrious career of the bridge which still stands dominatingly over Canal Park. In 1870, the canal was created to allow access to the very large harbor created by Minnesota point. Although the bridge is now revered by locals and visitors alike, it was not always that way. When construction of the canal was 2/3 finished, the neighboring Wisconsin town of Superior got a federal injunction to stop the construction. They were concerned that the diversion of the St. Louis River would ruin their harbor. As reported by Frank Young, Duluth officials managed to round up approximately 50 citizens with hand tools to finish the harbor before the injunction could be served.
A man named Wilhelm Boeing owned the land through which the canal was dug. He had objected to the construction of the canal and had tried to prevent ships from using. However, he was completely unsuccessful, so he left for Seattle and started an aircraft company that you may have heard of.
Having dug the canal, the city now faced the problem of crossing it so that Minnesota Point did not just become an abandoned, useless strip of land. The final design was created by a city engineer named Thomas McGilvray. The original bridge was shorter than the current erection, and it carried a gondola that transported people and street cars. Eventually, as the population rose on Minnesota Point and in Duluth itself, the people were in need of a faster crossing. To accomodate this, a driveable lift span was installed and the upper span of the bridge was raised to allow room for the road to be lifted. With the addition of 450 ton weights to both ends of the span, the Aerial Lift Bridge was created.
This bridge now stands as the symbolic representation of the city of Duluth. Ask anyone who has been there and it will surely be the most vivid thing they remember. Its unique upper span and low fog horn bellows stay fresh in the mind of any visitor. It is amazing to walk out to the end of the canal and watch as some of the ocean-worthy ships that have made the trek all the way inland from the Atlantic come steaming into a small Minnesota harbor town. They call out their intentions with a deep horn blast and the bridge calls back. It is truly a great landmark for the state of Minnesota.
Much thanks to the article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune by Larry Oakes.