Parks & Recreation
THE CITY OF DULUTH, MINNESOTA

Cascade Park History

Cascade

From Lost Duluth: Landmarks, Industries, Buildings, Homes, and the Neighborhoods in Which They Stood, copyright © 2011, Zenith City Press, Duluth, Minnesota.

In 1870 the City of Duluth bought four acres of land near First Avenue West and Sixth Street through which ran Clark House Creek. Cascade Park, with the Clark House Creek running right through it, was plotted on those acres between Cascade Drive and Mesaba Avenue in 1886. Three years later Duluth’s first superintendent of parks, William King Rogers, developed a plan for Duluth’s park system that initially called for three parks to run along creeks starting at the proposed roadway between Miller Creek and Chester Creek that would become Skyline Parkway. As the scenic roadway expanded, more parks would follow along other creeks. Lakeshore Park, today’s Leif Erikson Park, was also part of the plan’s future and was intended to be much larger than it is today. Rogers envisioned many parks running along creeks from the boulevard to the shores of the lake and St. Louis Bay like “pearls on a string.” When he announced his idea, Cascade Park was already in place along Clark House Creek. The other two he named for assassinated U.S. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and James A. Garfield: Lincoln Park along Miller Creek and Garfield Park (later renamed Chester Park) along Chester Creek. Of all of Duluth’s early parks, Cascade was by far the grandest. Perched on a bluff above downtown Duluth’s business section, the park held many beautiful, meticulously tended gardens and carefully groomed pathways.

In 1895 the city added a sandstone pavilion and bell tower at the heart of the park, giving it a whimsical, castle-like atmosphere (shown at left under construction and above right in 1896). The structure had several levels and picnic facilities and played host to many garden parties and social events. Clark House Creek flowed directly through the pavilion, cascading out an opening on the building’s lakeside façade to a pond more than thirty feet below. (The creek was diverted below ground at First Avenue West.) The park quickly became a popular spot for picnickers and others seeking escape from the smoke and noise of Duluth’s busy waterfront. Unfortunately, the bell tower was destroyed during a storm in 1897. More portions of the creek were altered to flow underground as the area surrounding the park developed. In the 1950s Cascade Park was reduced in size and most of its sandstone structures were razed.

Today only two-and-a-half acres of Cascade Park survive. When Mesaba Avenue was widened in 1975 to accommodate traffic heading toward Miller Hill Mall and surrounding retail developments, a large part of the park was sacrificed. The city demolished its remaining sandstone structures and forced Clark House Creek underground throughout the park. The city then built a concrete tower-like structure atop the bell tower’s old sandstone foundation. That foundation, which holds a bronze plaque which reads “Cascade Park,” and portions of the rock wall supporting Mesaba Avenue are all that remain of the original park.

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From Zenith: A Postcard Perspective of Historic Duluth, copyright © 2005, Zenith City Press, Duluth, Minnesota

William Rogers’ plan for Duluth’s park system called for three of the first four parks (and other future parks) to run along creeks starting at the proposed roadway that would become Skyline Parkway. When he announced his idea in 1889, two of his first four designated parks were already in place, and one of them fit his plan precisely. Cascade Park, with the Clark House Creek running right through it, was plotted between Cascade Drive and Mesaba Avenue in 1886 (Portland Square was also established in 1886). And of all of Duluth’s early parks, Cascade was by far the grandest. Originally planned to be a forty-nine acre spread, the three-acre park sat on a bluff above downtown Duluth’s business section; many beautiful, meticulously tended gardens and carefully groomed pathways graced the park.

In 1895 the city added a sandstone pavilion and bell tower at the heart of the park, giving it a whimsical, castle-like atmosphere. The structure had several levels and picnic facilities and played host to many garden parties and social events. Clark House Creek flowed directly through the pavilion, cascading out through an opening on the building’s lakeside façade. (The creek was diverted below ground at First Avenue West.) The park quickly became a popular spot for picnickers and others seeking escape from the smoke and noise of Duluth’s busy waterfront. Unfortunately, the bell tower was destroyed during a storm in 1897. Portions of the creek were altered to flow underground as the area surrounding the park developed.

Today only two and a half acres of Cascade Park survive. When Mesaba Avenue was widened in 1975 to accommodate traffic heading toward the Duluth Heights neighborhood and the Miller Hill Mall and surrounding retail developments, a large part of the park was sacrificed. Its sandstone structures were destroyed and the remainder of the creek was forced underground. The city then rebuilt the bell tower, though in a different design than the original.

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