Duluth USLHS Buoy depot Seeing The Light

Minnesota Point, MM Home Back

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Historical Information

With a dramatic increase in the volume of maritime traffic making its way in and out of the twin ports of Duluth and Superior, the buoyage of the area also saw a sharp increase during the final years of the nineteenth century. Finding great difficulty in effectively managing the annual laying-out and retrieving of these buoys and in supplying the light stations of western Lake Superior from the remote Ninth district depot in Detroit, the Lighthouse Board began to consider the establishment of a new buoy depot to serve the area.

Click to view enlarged imageSince the old Minnesota Point lighthouse reservation was already Lighthouse Board  property and conveniently located for the area it would serve, the Board first requested an appropriation of $14,000 for the construction of a depot on the old Minnesota Point site in its annual report for the 1902 fiscal year. Congress responded favorably with the requested appropriation on March 3, 1903.

Click to view enlarged imagePlans and specifications for a buoy shed, oil house and wharf were drawn up at the district headquarters in Detroit the following year, and bids were advertised for their construction. Since no bids were received on the work as a result of those advertisements, the project had to wait until the 1905, when bids could be once again be advertised. 

Click to view enlarged imageThe site was surveyed and platted in 1904, and the photograph to the upper right was taken at this time to show the proposed location of the new depot. Even from this early photograph, it can be seen that the old Minnesota Point Light keeper's dwelling had been demolished, and that the upper part of the old tower had already begun to crumble.

Click to view enlarged imageMaterials for the construction of the wharf were delivered, and the work began with the driving of numerous pilings deep into the lake bottom. Sawed-off at a height three feet above the lake's surface, the pilings were capped and bridged with thick planking to support the heavy traffic that the wharf would see. On its completion in 1906 the wharf stood 196 feet long and 20 feet wide. The depot was completed with the construction of a concrete structure containing two distinct areas separated by a fireproof wall. The larger front Click to view enlarged imagesection of the structure was designed for the storage of buoys and featured large doors at the front and side of the building to allow large buoys to be moved in and out of the building without obstruction and a number of windows to allow light to enter the structure. The smaller rear storage area was designed for the storage of oil, and featured but a few few small windows and heavy steel doors to retard the spread of fire. 

As of this writing, we have been unable to determine when the depot was taken out of service, as we have been able top find no mention of the depot station in any of the government reports we have seen after 1910.

Seeing this depot

We did not have time to go searching for this structure when we were last in Duluth, and thus did not obtain any photographs. In fact, we assumed that the building had been demolished since we had never come across any photographs of the depot in our research. Then on 08/23/01 I received an email from Duluth resident Colt Edin, who reporting that he had been boating along the shore of Minnesota Point earlier that week, and saw an old abandoned concrete structure with USLHS DEPOT cast above its front door, and came searching our site to see if he could find any information on the building.

On 11/04/01, I contacted Denis O'Hara of Northern Images, who had previously honored us with his photographs of the ruins of the Minnesota Point Light, to see if he might be willing to photograph the buoy depot for us. Amazingly, Dennis went out to Minnesota Point the next day, and sent us the color photographs you see on this page.

A big thank you to both Colt and Dennis for their kind assistance.

Finding this depot

Hwy 61 slices through Duluth parallel to the lakeshore. From Hwy 61, take Canal Park Drive into Canal Park drive, and drive across the famous lift bridge. Continue approximately 3.5 miles to the airport. Park your vehicle in one of the public parking spaces in the area, and head for a gated dirt road to the rear of the airport buildings. The road is gated to prevent vehicle traffic, however foot traffic is welcomed. Continue approximately 1.5 miles along this trail to the lighthouse ruins. Once you find the lighthouse ruins you are close to the buoy depot, whish is located on the St' Louis side of the Point.

Reference Sources

Annual reports of the Lighthouse Board, 1902 through 1910
08/23/01 email from Colt Edin on the existence of the depot structure.
11/05/01 photographs of the depot by Dennis O'Hara of Northern Images.

This page last updated 01/15/2003

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