Jul 23, 201111:44 AMThe Bucket List
In Canal Park, walking along the boardwalk towards the lighthouse and bridge, you’ll come across horse-drawn carriages, bike rental, a little boat that sells mini donuts, a few dozen seagulls, and a few anchors that have retired to the shore and now serve as climbing apparatuses and lawn decorations. These anchors have a greater story than just of the kid who tripped and hit his head; they pay tribute to Duluth’s shipping history, but did you know that they could also double as tombstones?
The Duluth Maritime Museum located right next to the lift bridge at the end of the boardwalk is the place to learn fun facts about Duluth’s shipping history. The museum contains maps wrinkled and yellowed by use and age, newspaper clippings, artistic renderings, detailed models, and photographs of the Duluth shipping industry in its prime. The architecture of the building is inspired by a ship: short hallways, tight staircases, and an observation deck (complete with a ship wheel and nautical devices) that overlooks Lake Superior and the lighthouse. Though the museum is filled with old things and mementos of days past its design is sharp, creative, and modern—an enriching environment in which to learn!
My favorite aspect of the Maritime Museum is their displays: a model, a description and random facts, and a few historical objects all set to the beautiful artist’s rendition of a ship, Lake Superior, or an event. I’ll admit, I learned about the anchors not because I’m a fun fact junkie or because I was wondering—actually, I hardly notice them because they have been there my whole life—but because I was drawn in to one of the exhibits due to the artwork. The Maritime Museum taught me that the anchors resting near the boardwalk were recovered from the shipwreck of the whaleback steamer, the Thomas Wilson.
The Thomas Wilson sunk after colliding with the George Hadley on June 7, 1902. Due to miscommunication and misunderstanding, they collided two miles out, near the entrance of Duluth Harbor. After the three minutes it took for the Wilson to sink, 9 crewmen were lost to Lake Superior with the wreck. Attempts were made to raise the Wilson but none succeeded. He still lies where he fell. The anchors, recovered along with some other pieces from the wreck, are displayed not only for lawn decorations, but also to commemorate the disaster and sinking of the Thomas Wilson.
Museums will always have something to teach that I never knew but it isn’t often that I can apply that knowledge to my daily life. I see those anchors quite often and have memories of climbing on them when I was a kid and now they have a whole new meaning. The Maritime Museum is the place to expand your knowledge of Duluth’s shipping legacy . . . and you may take away a fun fact or two as well! And did I mention that it’s free?