The History of

Skyline Parkway

by Mark Ryan

Page 2 of 4


In 1888, a year before the city's park board's creation, Rogers presented to the council an ingenious park design utilizing Duluth's unique topography. The centerpiece of the system would be a city-wide boulevard built across the hilltop, along the natural terrace. Geological Profile

Geological profile of section at the head of 9th Avenue West in Duluth, Minn. Note how the early boulevard (Carriage Drive) was created out of a natural terrace left by Lake Superior's prehistoric beach. (Winchell, Geol. & Nat. Hist. Survey of MN, 1896-98)

The plan included a lakeshore park stretching along the present shoreline from 7th Avenue East to 40th Avenue East, and called for the two parallel park systems to be occasionally connected by perpendicular ravine park systems which followed the city's many rivers and creeks as Terrace at 9th Ave. Westthey plunged toward the lake. Rogers had first conceived the plan twelve years before in 1875.

Duluth began experiencing a real estate boom in the late 1880's, and Rogers along with city officials foresaw a population growth of nearly half a million within five years. A park system such as the one Rogers had laid out was considered an essential advertising tool for the city. Rogers expressed his thoughts about it in a letter to former president Hayes:Duluth, 1870


"It is easy to read its future now, standing on the upper terrace of the bluff overlooking the City...the scene that is spread out below on both shores, is something worth coming a long way to see. No one can glance over it and doubt that one of the great cities of the world is here in the making--one of the largest if not the largest on the continent."

--William K. Rogers in letter to R.B. Hayes, Duluth Minnesota, April 26, 1887



Olaf Benson, a landscape engineer who had done so much for Chicago parks was invited by Rogers to visit Duluth and give his thoughts on the city's potential for park building.

"It is the most wonderful opportunity for city parking which I know of in any country. The fact that there exists in the very heart of the city such a ground-work for a park system is really phenomenal. Other cities have had to create their parks. Duluth has hers ready made."

--Olaf Benson, Chicago Landscape Engineer

For twenty years Benson had overseen the improvements of Lincoln Park in Chicago. He came to Duluth because of his interest in projects such as Duluth had in the works. He was even more enthusiastic about the layout of the upper terrace.


"I have seen nothing approaching it in this country, or in foreign lands in all my experience, for the purpose for which it is wanted--an absolutely perfect road, graded and macadamized by nature up nearly 500 feet above the level of the lake overlooking the city and commanding a view in every direction of its superb surrounds, that Duluth may well be proud of, and should not fail to show every visitor. The city, I think, should recognize that it holds such a gift of nature in trust--to develop it in every appropriate way."

----Olaf Benson, Chicago Landscape Engineer





© 1999 Mark Ryan.