Skyline Parkway’s Trip Down Memory Lane

Northland Uncovered: 125 Years of Skyline Parkway

Duluth is filled with historical buildings and breathtaking views.

Skyline Parkway is a famous stretch of road combining the two.

Today, families pack in the car to take in the views you can’t get anywhere else.

“The people who came here had a vision,” said Duluth Preservation Alliance member Doug Stevens.

Skyline Parkway sits 600 feet above Lake Superior, “20,000 years ago there was a glacier which receded and it left a natural roadbed here,” explained Stevens.

The vision for creating this scenic route came from William King Rogers.

“He was lawyer, a minister and he was secretary to the 19th president Rutherford B. Hayes,” said Stevens.

Stevens says Rogers saw the promise of Duluth during a visit in 1870, “They realized this was going to be the next boom town.”

Rogers dreams was to build a parkway to rival any other upcoming city.

A park board was established in 1884.

Construction began in 1889 and the first section of the road was completed in two years.

That was 14 years before the Duluth Lift Bridge was built.

“You have to remember there was no mechanized equipment then, no steam shovel, no gravel tracks,” said Stevens.

Horses and carriages were the transportation taking over the road back then.

“The carriages were all decked out, they’d come in teams of four to six, people would dress up very fancy,” said Stevens.

Northland kids loved seeing the carriages drive by and made a game out of it.

“So they would yell tally ho at the passengers and the passengers would yell tally ho back and they would throw pennies at the kids,” said Stevens.

It’s stories like that Stevens doesn’t want people to forget, “People don’t know who William King Rogers was. Many people don’t know who Sam Snively was.”

He says the history of the road is the foundation of it all.

“I think about Sam Snively and I think about William Rogers and I think about all the other pioneers that helped build this parkway,” Stevens explained.

Snively made sure 22 of Skyline Parkway’s 28 miles were completed.

“He was Duluth’s only 4 term mayor and he had such a compassion for the parkway,” explained Stevens.

Snively paid for come construction out of his own pocket and was known to pick up some tools to help get the work done.

“When he lost his election in 1937 the city of Duluth still gave him an office to look after the parkway,” said Stevens.

It’s the passion for the roadway and the understanding of its importance keeping the path open all these years.

Many areas of the parkway were severely damaged in the 2012 flood, but the changes that came as a result were for the better.

“It changed the intersections for Skyline which were very dangerous,” said Stevens.

There are photo displays of the first section of Skyline Parkway at the Duluth Public Library in downtown and the Kathryn A. Martin Library on the UMD campus.

There will be a celebration of Skyline Parkway’s 125 years on Sunday, July 31 at Chester Bowl from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

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