north shore historic sites
People have been heading up the shore for more than 12,000 years. When they begin writing back home about it, more folks were enticed to come explore. One of the first Europeans to mention his travels was Etienne Brule, who is reputed to have noted and named Lake Superior in 1623. He chose the name because the translation of the Anishinaabe name for the lake, Kitchigummi, converts to Great Water, and because the lake is the largest and highest of the five lake tributary to the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Included here are Historical centers and museums, which may charge a fee, followed by a list of historic sites.
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mile 26.1 + 0.9 miles
The society opened its first museum operation in the Duluth and Iron Range Railway Depot [D&IRR] in 1960; within this building are over 4,000 square feet of interpretative exhibits highlighting the chronological historical development of the Region and is home to the administrative offices of the Lake County Historical Society. On permanent display outside the depot are D&IRR Locomotive #3, Ore Car #251, Caboose #22 and the DM&IR Mallet #229 Locomotive. The Society's collection of artifacts includes almost 3,500 separate items. There is a collection of almost 5,000 photographs, mostly from pre-1930 and over 150 feet of manuscripts and archival material. The Society operates 3 seasonal historic sites in Two Harbors:
520 South Avenue | Two Harbors
The horrific shipwrecks of November 1905 fuel the demand for a lighthouse along Superior's not sure. The amazing construction process was completed in 1910 and the light at split rock shown until 1968. The history centers superb displays, exhibit, and video presentation showcase the evolution of the lighthouse.
The visitor center includes a museum store with mementos, Split Rock memorabilia and hand-picked gift items.
Note - the Lighthouse is owned and operated by the MN Historical Society which offers three tour options:
Grounds Pass :: self-guided tour to visitor center and historic grounds
General Admission :: self-guided tour of Visitor center, historic grounds and all buildings [lighthouse, fog-signal building, oil house and light-keeper's home
Keeper's Tour :: Guided tour of historic grounds and lighthouse; 9am daily in the summer and 5pm as available
Attend the annual Edmund Fitzgerald Commemorative Beacon Lighting every November 10th
3713 Split Rock Lighthouse Road | Two Harbors
mile 54.6 + 0.1 miles
Open seasonally; a small collection of local artifacts and exhibits; acts as the Silver Bay Visitor Center, too.
80 Outer Drive | Silver Bay
mile 65.3 + 4.6
Orchard, gardens, hiking trail, picnic tables, museum, one-room schoolhouse, sauna, original homestead, and Visitor Center with gifts. events include guided tours mid-May through September and the Annual Finnish Tori Marketplace and Music, the second weekend in August.
5653 Little Marais Road | Finland
The building, with its distinguishing Tudor-style architecture, was originally built in 1929. Over time it has become a landmark, known by both tourists and local residents alike, as the heart of Schroeder. Now home of the Schroeder Area Historical Society, the Center houses a collection of oral histories, photographs and memorabilia. Displays of fine art and craftwork by several local and regional artists can be enjoyed and purchased at the Cross River Heritage Center.
7932 West Highway 61 | Schroeder
The North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum welcomes tour groups, the culturally curious traveler, families and children of all ages and even the virtual visitor from across the globe. If you're on Lake Superior's North Shore, you don't want to miss out on the experience of the unique maritime heritage engrained in the landscape and people who call this country home. Summer Hours (mid-May to mid-October) Closed Sunday and Monday Tuesday - Thursday :: 9am - 3pm Friday & Saturday :: 9am - 5pm Winter Hours (mid-October to mid-May) Friday & Saturday :: 10am - 5pm $3.00 Adult and $1.00 Children 6-16, under 6 free
7136 Highway 61 | Tofte
mile 109.5 + 0.1 miles
The nonprofit Art Gallery features local, regional, and national artists in revolving exhibits, as well as featuring a permanent collection of original art by Anna Johnson, an early 1900s artist.
115 W Wisconsin Street | Grand Marais
gunflint mile 53.8 + 0.2 miles from Gunflint Trail
Housed in the historic Chik-Wauk Lodge on beautiful Saganaga Lake, Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center presents the area's cultural and natural history through interpretive and interactive exhibits. Learn about the Gunflint Trail's prehistoric beginnings and people who helped shape today’s unique, rural community, including Native Americans, Voyageurs, miners, loggers, resort owners and current residents.
28 Moose Pond Drive | Grand Marais
mile 144.8 + 0.9 miles
Learn Aniishinaabe art, culture and history. Directions: from Highway 61 MM 143.3 turn right onto Mile Creek Rd, and at the first cross street, turn left and continue 0.7 miles on Mile Creek Rd.
170 Mile Creek Road | Grand Portage
Historic Sites Along the North Shore
Listed from the southwest [Duluth] end of shore, to the northeast.
Scenic 61 Drive, follows the path of the original 1929 North Shore road
French River Wayside Rest Area
The NEW  interpretive panels at French River Wayside Rest give a snapshot of the creation of Scenic 61/Congdon Boulevard and commercial fishing on Lake Superior. The site has an easy walk down to to a gravel swimming beach [no fishing!] making it an ideal place to cool down on those 12 hot days of the year.
A fish sanctuary from the mouth of the French River to the four-lane freeway is in place as the MN Department of Natural Resources traps adult rainbow trout sometimes referred to as steelhead. The big steelhead run happens from late October into November with a smaller spring run in April. Eggs are removed and sent to a Minnesota hatchery where offspring are raised and returned to Lake Superior. The hatchery fish have their adipose fin [the one on the back between the dorsal fin and tail] clipped. Unclipped fish are native and have naturally reproduced.
Steelhead, Rainbow, Kamloops Trout – what’s the difference?
Rainbow trout and steelhead are the same species but steelhead live in saltwater and spawn in freshwater streams, while rainbows live in freshwater. Pacific steelhead fish were introduced to Lake Superior in the 1890s. Rainbows raised in a hatchery and released are also known as Kamloops or ‘Loopers. Unclipped/native fish can never be harvested when fishing.
1856 Buchanan Wayside, site of the 1st north shore post office and an early community on Scenic 61
This global business started in the leased space of one of the founders, John Dwan, which now houses the 3M Birthplace Museum. The original concept in 1902 was to mine corundum, a very hard crystallized mineral, and sell it to grinding wheel manufacturers out East. But the mineral turned out to be something softer and the business was sold in 1905 and moved to Duluth. Stop by the museum to find out what happened.
Open 11am-4pm, Friday – Sunday, May 27- October 22.
Duluth & Iron Range Railroad Depot
1907 Duluth & Iron Range Railroad Depot, on the National Register of Historic Places, is a waterfront museum featuring exhibits that reflect the development of Lake County with special emphasis placed on the big three industries; iron mining and the railroad, timber, and commercial fishing.
Open 10am-4pm, May 27 – October 22, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Ore Dock #1
1883 Ore Dock #1, the ore dock closest to shore on the waterfront [on the left in the photo]. For reference, the ship shown the Edgar B Speer is 1004′ long!
3 Spot train & Mallet Engine
1883 Duluth & Iron Range 3 Spot locomotive, iron ore car and caboose, and the Duluth Missabe & Iron Range 299 Mallet Locomotive [pictured here]; on display outside the Lake County Historical Museum.
Two Harbors Light Station
1892 Two Harbors Light Station, oldest continually operating lighthouse on the North Shore, is open for tours and the lightkeepers’ quarters are now a B&B.
Open 10am-4pm, May 27 – October 22, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast is open year round!
Edna G. Tug
1896 Edna G. tug, in service through December 1980, can be seen at the Two Harbors waterfront.
Sunken Ship Samuel P. Ely
1896 Sunken ship Samuel P. Ely, [ok, not the easiest to see, but interesting] in Lake Superior near the western breakwall
R.J. Houle Visitors Center
1930s R.J. Houle Visitors Center, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps [CCC] as a fire station on Cloquet Lake, now on the northeast edge of town on Highway 61
Virgin Pine and Cedar at Encampment Forest
Virgin Pine and Cedar at Encampment Forest, on Hwy 61 northeast of Two Harbors [drive by only, this is all private property]
The Civilian Conservation Corps built many historical structures at Gooseberry State Park. Check out the original 1930s log and stone construction in the scenic wooded setting and take the self-guided tour
Pilings at the mouth of the Split Rock River
1900s Pilings at the mouth of the Split Rock River, from the Merrill & Ring Lumber Company’s railway
Beaver Bay Cemetery
Beaver Bay Cemetery, final resting spot of some of the original settlers of beaver Bay, the oldest  community along the shore
mile 50.5 + 0.15 miles
Grave of Chief Makwabimidem, John Beargrease
Grave of Chief John Beargrease, who ran the mail up and down the shore via dogsled [the Beargrease Sled Dog Race is named after him]. The site is a Native American burial ground; leave [or add to] the tokens of remembrance and respect.
To access, drive north 0.15 miles on Lax Lake Road, then take a left on Old Towne Road and park on the south shoulder. The short path is on the north side, up the hill.
Silver Bay, the youngest  community on the shore
Tettegouche Camp on Mic Mac Lake
1910 Tettegouche Camp on Mic Mac Lake, walk-in/ski-in , bike-in site within the state park; you can rent these cabins, too!
Set on the 1890 John ‘Pine’ homestead, area residents have restored, furnished, and replicated several buildings on this 40-acre homestead – home of the Finland Minnesota Historical Society – to preserve the history of white settlers to eastern Lake County. An old log structure from an adjacent homestead now serves as a sauna museum. The restrooms are housed in an old cabin from a nearby resort. The Park Hill School is back home after being moved to Finland in 1930 where it served as a town hall, and later as a teen center, and a gift shop. Lots to see and learn.
From 1929 roadhouse, to manifestations as a general store gas station, post office, and sausage market, the Cross River Heritage Center now houses historical exhibits, a gift shop and visitor information, and many wonderful photos and details of logging in the area. One of the original Stickney Inn rooms has been preserved and is open to the public, too.
Father Baraga’s Cross
Take a moment to be grateful for safe travels. in 1846, Father Frederic Baraga set sail from La Pointe Michigan to an outpost on the North Shore. The wind picked up and waves battered the small boat. After a harrowing on the big lake, the missionary and his companions safely beached the boat at the mouth of the Cross River. In gratitude for their safe arrival, the priest erected a wooden cross on the beach. The current symbolic cross has been placed in remembrance of his journey. It is a quiet stone beach.
Lutsen Resort, established in the 1880s, the main lodge was built in the 1940s
The 35-foot fishing tug Neegee, or “friend” in Ojibwe, was completed in 1936 in Grand Marais and used in Lake Superior through the 1950s. To learn about commercial fishing in that era, take the self-guided tour of the boat and fish house.
Grand Marais Lighthouse
1880s Breakwall & Lighthouse
Those who have traveled and lived along the North Shore have been reliant on Lake Superior for food and – for many years – for transportation. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, lighthouses were built to mark treacherous reefs and to mark spots of refuge, like the Grand Marais Harbor. The lighthouse was built in 1884 and the Lightkeeper’s residence in 1896. Now home to the Cook County Historical Society, it is a museum with exhibits and archival storage.
gunflint mile 4.5
Maple Hill Church
1896 Maple Hill Church, picturesque Swedish-style church [pictured at the top of the page]
In 1915 Clearwater Lake Lodge opened as the first resort on the Gunflint Trail. Originally, Charlie & Petra Boostrom set up tent platforms around a cabin and pitched tents for guests as they arrived. In 1922, Charlie began gathering logs for building Clearwater’s main lodge. In 1926 the lodge was completed, and included a dining room, a kitchen, a sitting area around a large stone hearth, and 14 rooms upstairs. The family occupied some of the rooms, while others were rented out to a steady stream of guests. Once the lodge was complete, Charlie began building smaller guest cabins around the property—four of which are still in use. Charlie built furniture during the winter months, creating many original pieces. The dining room tables and chairs, as well as the beautiful Diamond Willow furniture, are still used by the guests today.
gunflint mile 53.8 + 0.2 miles from Gunflint Trail
Housed in the historic Chik Wauk Lodge on beautiful Saganaga Lake, Chik Wauk Museum and Nature Center presents the area’s cultural and natural history through interpretive and interactive exhibits. Learn about the Gunflint Trail’s prehistoric beginnings and people who helped shape today’s unique, rural community, including Native Americans, Voyageurs, miners, loggers, resort owners and current residents.
St. Francis Xavier Church in Chippewa City is a beautiful reminder of a thriving village that was home to more than 100 families in the 1880s and 1890s. Famous artist, George Morrison, was born and raised here. The descendants of Chippewa City residents continue to honor their heritage and support the Historical Society in sharing the story of this village.
St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, known locally as the “Chippewa City Church” is one of the last physical remnants of a once vibrant community.
Naniboujou Lodge, 1929 lodge with famous Cree-inspired painting in the 80-foot dining hall and domed ceiling
Learn about the alliance between the Grand Portage Ojibwe and the North West Company during the fur trade boom in the late 1700s. at the Grand Portage National Monument. Explore the reconstructed stockade and great hall, the visitor center, garden and grounds, Mount Rose trail and historic Grand Portage trail leading 8.5 miles inland to Fort Charlotte on the Pigeon River.
mile 143.4 + 22 miles to Isle Royale via boat
Sunken ship America
The America sank June 7, 1928 after leaving Washington Harbor on Isle Royale in the early morning. The vessel bumped across a reef tearing a hole in the bottom, then hit bottom in an attempt to beach the boat. The bow is in a few feet of water in the North Gap; you can view the ship if you take the ferry to Isle Royale.
- Now that summer has ended: An exhibit about winter at Grand Portage during the fur trade Era
- March 15, 2023 - May 26, 2023
- Live Music at Papa Charlies
- March 22, 2023
- Winter Naturalist - 2023 Series
- March 22, 2023
- Live Music & Events at American Legion Post 109 in Two Harbors
- March 22, 2023
- Live Music & Events at Castle Danger Brewery
- March 22, 2023
- see all events