Discover Duluth Redux: Seven Bridges RoadFor all intents and purposes, Seven Bridges Road should really be called “Snively’s Road.” Not only has the road never had just seven bridges, but it wouldn’t exist had it not been for Duluth’s longest-serving mayor.
By: Matthew R. Perrine, Budgeteer News
Originally published June 22, 2007, on DuluthBudgeteer.com.
For all intents and purposes, Seven Bridges Road should really be called “Snively’s Road.”
Not only has the road never had just seven bridges, but it wouldn’t exist had it not been for Samuel Snively, a wealthy land developer and Duluth’s longest-serving mayor.
After donating large portions of his land — and securing the rest from neighbors like legendary financier Jay Cooke — Snively set about constructing a parkway that snaked up Amity Creek from the western tip of Lester Park.
As he was impressed with the stream’s “winding course” and its “dells and falls,” Snively had the road crisscross over the creek in numerous places — requiring a number of wooden bridges to be constructed.
Upon its completion, Snively presented his park drive to the city as a gift. Barely a decade later, however, the road had fallen into disrepair. After a major overhaul from the city’s parks board, it reopened as Amity Parkway in 1912 with nine new stone-arch bridges. (A majority of the bridges were restored in the mid-’90s.)
Today, Seven Bridges Road serves as the eastern terminus of Skyline Parkway. To get there, head north on Occidental Boulevard from Superior Street in east Duluth.
Lester Park native Mark Ryan’s extensive research on Seven Bridges Road contributed to this story.*
"Discover Duluth" is an ongoing photo essay series by Matthew R. Perrine that highlights points of interest in and around the region.
*Accompanying the original online story was "Mark Ryan Discusses His Seven Bridges Road Research." It is reproduced here in its entirety:
Mark Ryan, a Lester Park native, has written one of the only (perhaps the only) thorough histories on Seven Bridges Road. (It is available to read on his Web site, for free, at www.amitycreek.com/sevenbridges/index.html.) For my “Discover Duluth” installment on the treasured east Duluth parkway — which his research heavily contributed to — I asked Ryan a few questions about his experiences.
Budgeteer: What led you to doing such an extensive history on the road?
Ryan: Curiosity, I suppose — and just a fondness for the area, having grown up not far from it. My original idea was to find out who had built the bridges. My initial research didn’t agree with the posted sign that said they had been built by the Works Progress Administration between 1928 and 1934. Not likely since the WPA didn’t come into existence until 1935. Also, early on, a guy at the parks department was adamant that they had been built in the 1930s even though he himself had showed me a record of the cost involved for each bridge dated 1912. Once I got going, I just wanted to be thorough. And it was a fun and enjoyable project. I really enjoyed tracking down the information because it had been essentially lost.
What’s the most fascinating thing you came across during your research?
If you mean “most fascinating thing” regarding Seven Bridges Road, then I suppose it was when I came across a July 1912 newspaper article about the reopening of the road after the stone-arch bridges had been completed. Within the article they quoted word for word the entire re-telling of the road’s history that Samuel Snively (the road’s builder) had made at the opening ceremonies. It was full of so much information and great quotes to use in my story. Totally unexpected! But also I have to say when Snively’s great-nephew Doug Overland showed me his great-uncle’s personal album containing long-forgotten (and probably unpublished) photographs of the original rustic wooden bridges that had been built along the road. That was amazing, too.
But if you mean a general “most fascinating thing,” then I’d have to say it was the day at the Minnesota Historical Society when I took a short break from Seven Bridges research to look up the news report of myself being hit by a car when I was 7 years old. I only knew that it was in 1959, and sometime around Easter. When I finally found the article, it was in the April 13th issue of the newspaper. The story, of course, was a day old, so the accident had actually happened April 12th. Just by coincidence (or was it?) that was the same date I was at the historical society: April 12th, exactly 39 years later. I drove home very carefully that afternoon.
Do you have a favorite bridge — and why is it your favorite?
… I guess I’d say historic bridge No. 3, the one just north of the Lakeview hockey rinks. I had found a 1913 postcard of the bridge, and using it, I was able to match the rock pattern in the facings of the bridge with those in the postcard. It gave me visual proof that the bridges had been around at least since 1913. That made me even more determined to continue my research.