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Lakewalk pillar disappears

A highly visible piece of Duluth history has vanished, and no one is quite sure when or how. On Feb. 18 people started noting on social media that the concrete building off the shore of Canal Park, alternatively known as "the cribs," "the ice hou...

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Uncle Harvey's Mausoleum and pillar on Jan. 27, 2015. (Photo by Richard Thomas)

A highly visible piece of Duluth history has vanished, and no one is quite sure when or how. On Feb. 18 people started noting on social media that the concrete building off the shore of Canal Park, alternatively known as "the cribs," "the ice house" and "Uncle Harvey's Mausoleum," was missing something: the concrete pillar, roughly 10 feet in diameter, that stood in between the building and the shore.

Like the mausoleum itself, the pillar was a prominent sight for Lakewalkers, boaters and photographers, and was popular for swimmers to climb and dive off. On occasion, people strung slacklines  to walk across from the pillar to the building.

But now the pillar is gone. Staff at the Hampton Inn, which is located directly across from the Mausoleum, were not aware it was missing when the Budgeteer stopped by Feb. 19. Nor were staff at the Lake Maritime Museum, the Army Corps of Engineers or the City of Duluth.

"As far as I know aliens took it, but probably it's at the bottom like a sunken Roman pillar," said Jim Richardson, a recreational freediver who posts videos of his exploits on Youtube and other websites under the moniker Lake Superior Aquaman. He last explored the pillar in 2013 (video available here ) and "can't wait to get down there to see it this year."

Most people saw only the large concrete cylinder above the surface. But a look underwater revealed the structure was top-heavy, Richardson said. The cylinder was perched on wooden timbers, running 12-14 feet deep, that used to be sheathed in steel and concrete, but were eroded down to bare wood. The upper two feet were frayed by the wear and tear of winter ice. The February cold snap likely "sheared it off," he said.

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The mausoleum itself has been gradually leaning down to the left over the years, "either because it's sinking into the silt or the cribbing in buckling out," Richardson said. "It's not in danger of imminent collapse, but it will be underwater at some point."

The structure was built in 1919 by Whitney Brothers of Superior, Wisc. for offloading gravel from ships, only to be abandoned after three years as impractical, given Lake Superior's rough waters. The concrete pillar supported a conveyor belt from the building to shore. "Harvey" was one of the Whitney brothers, but the building is not a real mausoleum.

Calls to the St. Louis County, the Department of Natural Resources, the Seaway Port Authority and the City of Duluth Construction Services and Inspections department reveal that none of those entities have jurisdiction over the structure. Swimmers who venture onto it do so at their own risk.

The Lake Superior Monster which resides in the mausoleum was unavailable for comment.

 

Related Topics: HISTORY
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