Happy Monday! Here’s a question about a lake in Duluth that’s not named Superior.
Charles recently sent me an email with the subject line “Duluth Heights lake,” in reference to a long-ago lake that apparently covered a portion of Duluth Heights.
He says: "I tried to get info on this years ago and got very little. I think I got its name, but don't remember it. I believe it was drained to facilitate building Central Entrance. I would also like to see photos of it. I think it was drained in the late 1800s."
The late Duluth resident and historian John Fritzen writes about this lake in his short book, “The History of Duluth Heights,” published some decades ago and available at the Duluth Public Library.
“Old-timers described the level section of the Heights as a small grassy lake, back in the wilderness days and prior to development,” he wrote. “It had two outlets, with Brewery Creek flowing eastward, paralleling the present Central Entrance and emptying into Lake Superior near Sixth Avenue East.”
Brewery Creek was so named, Fritzen wrote, because a “one-horse brewery” was built along the creek at First Street in the 1850s.
“Buckingham Creek flows in a southerly direction, through the stone quarry, into the Twin Ponds on the Skyline Parkway and then down the West Hillside to the St. Louis Bay,” he wrote.
At the time of Fritzen’s writing, elderly early settlers of Duluth still described catching pickerel in the lake, while others described Brewery Creek as a good stream for trout.
Today, Brewery Creek, which mostly runs through tunnels now, is little more than a storm sewer, though some efforts have been made to reduce runoff in the past decade or so.
Fritzen’s father built a general store at the corner of Highland (now Basswood) Avenue and Central Entrance, and “it was necessary to drive pilings in the peat and muck in order to obtain footings,” Fritzen wrote.
“There are numerous places nearby where the same conditions existed,” he wrote. “Since peat and muck are indicators of a dried-up lake, it is obvious that the location was, at one time, underwater.”
On his website, Zenith City Online, historian Tony Dierckins writes that the Highland Improvement Co. drained the lake in 1891 so Duluth Heights could be developed. (The company also built Duluth’s famous incline railway down Seventh Avenue West.)
Charles, I haven’t found a picture of the long-ago lake, but I’ll keep looking. If I come across one, I’ll share it as part of a future column.
Now, go forth. Share today’s trivia. Impress your friends. And keep the questions coming!