When the Siren Last Wails
Whatís in store for the aging industrial landscape of Agate Bay?
By Charlene K. Roise
Minnesota Trunk Highway 61 runs northeast out of Duluth along Lake Superiorís rugged north shore. Before the 1920s, no reliable road
ran through this area, a wilderness until the late nineteenth century. A string of towns, once hardscrabble fishing villages, was founded
by Norwegian immigrants who toughed out the brutal winters because they were reminded of home. Smoked-fish shops still edge the road,
but quaint restaurants and antique shops have replaced general stores. Visitors needed to pack an above-average sense of adventure before
the road brought a modicum of amenities. Today, mom-and-pop resorts are being displaced by glitzy lodges. With upgraded roads and restaurants,
itís easy to forget the areaís rough past. That is, until you reach the town of Two Harbors.
At Agate Bay, a rare, natural harbor on Lake Superiorís treacherous, rock-fringed
north shore, history takes material form on a giant scale. Steel for the car
you drive, the structure of the building where you work, and the grommets
on the shoes you wear might contain iron ore transshipped at Two Harbors.
Iron ore proved to be the diamond in the rough for nineteenth-century prospectors
searching for gold, silver, and other minerals. Three iron ranges stretched
across northern Minnesota, but the ease of open-pit mining made the Mesabi
Range the mother lode. Railroads soon radiated from the mines, one terminating
at Agate Bay, which, together with the adjacent Burlington Bay, gave a name
to the community that sprang up at the port: Two Harbors.
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