Saturday, November 17, 2012

Harbor History: November 17, 1966: Lift Bridge Lit for First Time

A photo from the Duluth News-Tribune taken on the evening of November 17, 1966, when the Aerial Lift Bridge was illuminated for the first time. (Image: Duluth News Tribune.)
On this day in Duluth in 1966, during a gala celebration, state representative John A. Blatnik threw the switch to light the Aerial Lift Bridge for the first time. The city’s Project Duluth Committee, chaired by John Grinden, led the effort to light the bridge. “The Aerial Lift Bridge is the symbol of Duluth,” Grinden said, “We want to do everything possible to promote it to dramatize Duluth to tourists.” The committee hoped lighting the bridge would help make it as recognizable a symbol of Duluth as the Eiffel Tower was for Paris or St. Louis’s Gateway of the West Arch. Everyone seemed to love the idea, which would use the same type of lighting that illuminated Egypt’s Sphinx and the Palace of Versailles in France. Soon it had the approval of the City, the Corps of Engineers, the Lake Carrier’s Association, and the Coast Guard. Costs spurred the creation of the Aerial Bridge Club. Membership was obtained by donating one dollar or more to the lighting fund, and each member’s card entitled its holder to one free bridge ride. On Friday, November 11, the group had collected $21,000 from 10,000 donors. On November 17 a crowd of thousands joined Bridge Club officials and city dignitaries to watch as state representative John A. Blatnik—who called the lights “a magnificent symbol of the rebirth of our area”—threw the switch to turn on the lights. The University of Minnesota Duluth marching band broke into “Hey, Look Me Over.” After that, the crowd joined the College of St. Scholastica’s choir in a rendition of “God Bless America.” Read the complete story about the lighting of the bridge here.
Membership in the Aerial Bridge Club cost one dollar, and the money went to purchase lighting. The card also allowed holders one free ride on the Lift Bridge. (Image: X-Comm.)
Tony Dierckins  -- Zenith City Online


  1. I'd very happily fork over a dollar -- or 20 -- for a ride on the bridge today. Sigh. Safety and all that.

    Great stuff, thanks.


  2. Very nice story, history of the lift bridge and Duluth is always interesting.Reminds us all of better, simpler times.