Duluth, Minnesota is a port city for Lake Superior. The lake has been a part of the industrial growth of the state of Minnesota especially dating back to earlier centuries. One of the most important landmarks of Duluth is the Aerial Lift Bridge. The bridge provides a vertical lift, which is quite uncommon for most bridges. At first the bridge was created for a transporter. It was the first of two vertical lift bridges created in the United States.
What is historically significant about the bridge is its age. It was constructed in 1905, and upgraded in 1929 to the lift design it has today. By 1973 Americans realized how important the bridge was, inducting it into the National Register of Historic Places. The city of Duluth maintains and runs the bridge.
The lake contains a few different sections that are narrow. Just off of the lake is the canal that the bridge spans. Underneath the bridge is a sand bar named Minnesota Point. Lake Superior and the St. Louis River are two waterways near Duluth. It is actually a canal off the river which holds the bridge where the river is about seven miles from the bridge to the southeast.
Since the townspeople decided to break up the sandbar it became necessary for those living on the island to be able to access the city. Many transportation methods were tried, but very few of them actually worked. A ferry could work during the summer, but the winter months made it impossible. A swinging footbridge was used for a few years, but again it was considered an unworthy resort because of the rickety and unsafe nature.
By 1892 the best solution was provided. Still, it took many years after that before the Aerial Lift Bridge could be completed. The War Department was one of the biggest departments to be against the bridge. The architect in charge of the project was not going to be turned down though. He decided to take his design to Chicago where the bridge was built the way he wanted it.
Since the plans were used in that city, many began seeking other designs that could do a similar thing. They felt what was really needed was some type of aerial transport ferry, which is how the bridge came into fruition. When the bridge was completed it had a capacity of 60 short tons. It was able to carry 350 people, wagons, streetcars, or automobiles across the canal. The trip took about one minute where as the car ferry took five minutes. The growing population of Duluth created a demand for more trips on the bridge and tourism soon picked up.
It was one of the reasons for the necessary reconfiguration in the 20's. Since the bridge was being used at capacity they had to reformulate it to withstand the many uses it was seeing. Visitors today can take a trip down to the shoreline in order to see the bridge and even watch how it works.