Grassroots group to install Incline Stairway signs

A guided hike Tuesday down the stairs will be followed by a fundraising opportunity at Bent Paddle Brewing Co. through the end of the month.

Incline railway and hillside homes
This photo of the Seventh Avenue West Incline Railway in Duluth was likely taken around 1905.
Contributed / Northeast Minnesota Historical Center / H. McKenzie.

DULUTH — All that remains of the former Seventh Avenue Incline Railway are the stairs that followed alongside its tracks.

Recently designated as a recreational hiking trail, it serves as a connection into Duluth’s past. A local grassroots effort, Friends of the Incline Steps , headed by Doug Stevens, has set out to ensure the historic route didn't become an overgrown memory.

The group's proposal to install interpretive signage was approved by the Duluth Parks and Recreation Department on April 27.

When Budgeteer reader Bob Watts was a little boy, he loved riding the Incline Railway up Seventh Avenue West from Superior Street to the hilltop. It was an adventure, he said, like riding the trolley car across the canal at the Aerial Bridge, or ...

Also known as the "Duluth Skyride," the Incline Railway operated from 1891-1939 to provide transportation from downtown to the newly developing west hillside neighborhood.

"This rail system was so popular when it was built. It lasted 48 years before it was torn down," Stevens said. Many of the people that rode the incline are not here anymore. This way it will be preserved. This is a great way for people to walk historic Duluth and have it be known with signs."


Stevens' efforts began in 2017. In 2021, he attended community meetings to ensure the incline steps were included in comprehensive planning of the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission as well as the Duluth Parks, Recreation, Open Space & Trails Plan . "Even during the pandemic, I was making sure it wasn't a forgotten project," Stevens said.

The signs were telling him to stop procrastinating. So Aaron Isaacs got busy on another ambitious project five years ago that resulted in the 350-page history of streetcars and public transportation in Duluth and Superior. "Twin Ports By Trolley,...

Jessica Peterson, Parks and Recreation manager said, "Thank you to the Friends group for taking a deep dive into the history, and for their grassroots effort in telling the story. Doug has worked really hard and we're looking forward to seeing it come full circle with the interpretive panels."

Guided hike and fundraiser

Stevens and Bob Berg of the Duluth Preservation Alliance will lead a guided hike Tuesday down the stairs, starting at 631 W. Skyline Parkway, at 6 p.m. The descent is under a mile at a roughly 500-foot incline.

Historic Incline Steps Recreational Hiking Trail.jpg
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

The Historic Incline Steps Recreational Hiking Trail begins at First Street near Duluth Bethel and Mesaba Avenue and continues upward to Skyline Parkway and beyond to Ninth Street where the pavilion and powerhouse were once located.

The trail veers from the incline's original route from First to Second streets, and again where the steps were moved further to the west near the Salmela House, Stevens said.

"For it being 132 years old, the route is in very good shape," Stevens said. "There are some cracks and shifting. The sidewalk and the steps are all aggregate concrete and held up better than today's concrete. Particularly, the steps at the bottom look new and the railings are still there, which is very impressive."

Following the hike, a fundraiser will kick off at Bent Paddle Brewing Co. to raise money to install four signs with historical information and photographs along the route. Bent Paddle's "Round Up" opportunity for the cause will continue May 16-31.

The goal is to raise $4,000 total by fall to install the signs next spring.


Duluth Preservation Alliance will serve as the 501(c)3 nonprofit. Tax-deductible donations can also be sent to: P.O. Box 161438, Duluth MN, 55816 with "Incline signs" in the memo line.

The Duluth Preservation Alliance and the Eco Rotary Club of Duluth and Superior have teamed up to help raise money needed for the signage. Both have pledged $1,000 donations. Eco Rotary adopted the trail in 2018. A cleanup event was held last November.

more by brielle bredsten
Love Creamery, Positively 3rd Street Bakery, Vikre Distillery and Chum are among those accepting rhubarb donations in exchange for their products, or to help raise funds for community causes.

Brielle Bredsten is the business reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.

She earned a bachelor's degree in Professional Writing & Technical Communication, with minors in Advertising and Creative Writing from Metropolitan State University, in addition to a two-year professional paid internship as reporter/editor of the student newspaper.

She is an award-winning professional writer, photographer and editor based in rural Minnesota. Over the past decade, Brielle Bredsten has contributed more than 1,000 articles, feature stories, non-profit press-releases, photographs and columns. Her work has been published in several community newspapers.

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