Exhibits at the St. Louis County Historical Society
St. Louis County MN Historical Society


To America with Love

Now Open in the Small Fesler Gallery
The exhibit may be viewed during regular museum hours.  Admission is included in the ticket purchase for the Depot museums (St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center in Duluth, MN).  It is free to current members of the St. Louis County Historical Society.

"Last summer, the Society was fortunate to have an intern from St. Olaf College, Sierra Napoli, from Proctor, Minnesota, work on first a very successful event  and then on creating an exhibit which will ultimately join the Society’s Traveling Exhibits Program.  The event was “Polka!  The Movie”, which featured a Cleveland-based writer and historian who commented on his documentary on Slovenian polka.  Sierra then turned her efforts to producing an exhibit about the lives of Italian women immigrants on the Range.  As a descendent of Italian immigrants who came to Ellis Island in the early 1900s and were then drawn here by the mining boom, she brought an innate strong interest and extensive acquired knowledge to the project.  She is a double major in History and Sociology/Anthropology, with a concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies.    Sierra states that with her combination of studies, she came to the Society in search of a more balanced history.

She spent a lot of time researching the subject, as well, through the assistance of the Hibbing Historical Society’s museum and through the Iron Range Research Center.  What resulted from the use of these documents and artifacts was essentially what Sierra started out to do, which was an attempt at an accurate description of the life of a Hibbing immigrant woman around the turn of the century, focusing on her additions to the family dynamic and contributions to the cultural and religious wealth, not to mention economic wealth, especially indirectly.  Francesca Napoli (Talarico), Sierra Napoli’s paternal great grandmother, who was born in the Calabria region of Italy in 1887 and entered the United States at New York City in 1910, became the center of the exhibit."

Excerpt from "Women’s History/Women’s Work in St. Louis County" by Susan Schwanekamp, Executive Assistant, Traveling Exhibits Coordinator and Rootprints (Society Newsletter) Editor. 

To read Susan's entire article, go to http://www.thehistorypeople.org/stlouishistory.asp.



Albert Woolson 

Albert Woolson was born in Antwerp, N.Y., on February 11, 1847 (the same day inventor Thomas Edison was born). His father enlisted in the Army to fight in the Civil War and was wounded. During his hospitalization in Minnesota, the family moved there. The father died, but Albert enlisted at age 17 on October 10, 1864.


He enlisted as a rifleman but served as a drummer and bugler with Company C, First Minnesota Heavy Artillery. In late 1864, the regiment was part of the Army of the Cumberland in Tennessee. Woolson was discharged as a Private on September 27, 1865.


After his service, Woolson lived in Mankato and St. Peter, Minnesota, where he worked as a railroad fireman and a wood turner. He later worked as a grain miller and in a logging camp. In 1905 he moved to Duluth at age 58. He worked as an electrician with the Duluth Carbolite Co. and for the Scott Graff Lumber Co. In 1925, at age 78, he went to work for the Hirschy Co., which manufactured washing machines. He retired in 1933 at age 86.


Once he reached 100, Woolson’s birthday drew letters, telegrams and visits from people around the country. The aging veteran often visited with folks from the porch of his Duluth home and loved retelling his war experiences.


When he died on August 2, 1956, at age 109 he was the last surviving member of the Union Army. About 1,500 people attended his funeral service in the Duluth Armory, hundreds lined the route of his funeral procession to Park Hill Cemetery, where about 2,000 people watched as he was buried. Among those sending condolences to Woolson’s family after his death in 1956 was Richard Nixon, then the nation’s vice president.


A bronze statue of Woolson sits in front of the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center (the Depot). Sculpted by artist Avard Fairbanks of Salt Lake City, it is the only duplicate of the one in the Gettysburg Battlefield National Historical Park.


Information courtesy of former staff member, Bryan Lean



Immigrant Waiting Room

The exhibit may be viewed during regular museum hours.  Admission is included in the ticket purchase for the Depot museums (St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center in Duluth, MN).


St. Louis County Historical Society Members may view the exhibit for free.

This exhibit features stories of immigrants who settled in the Duluth area.  A video can be viewed in the Shower Room attached to the main exhibit.  Both the Immigrant Waiting Room and Shower Room are located in the original spaces of the 1892 rooms.




Return to the River: The History of the St. Louis River and the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District


"Return to the River" opened in late August 2012 at the Great Lakes Aquarium.  The exhibit uses graphics, text and sculptural elements to explore the lower St. Louis River and its transformations over time, including the decline and recovery of water quality and the broad impacts on communities in our region. 


“Opportunities for recreation, commerce, and even land values have increased on the St. Louis River in the last 30 plus years since restoration efforts began”, said Marianne Bohren, Executive Director of WLSSD.  “The river’s transformation is a great story that should be remembered, and we’re proud to continue our role in restoring the river.”


“Our region’s history is deeply rooted in the St. Louis River,” said JoAnne Coombe, Executive Director of the St. Louis County Historical Society, “The formation of the WLSSD was a complex community development project involving social, political, economic, and environmental concerns. The exhibit really shows how far we’ve come, and the regional focus makes it a great addition to our Traveling Exhibits catalog.”


Funding for the exhibit was provided in part by the Coastal Zone Management Act, by NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource management, in cooperation with Minnesota’s Lake Superior coastal Program.


Western Lake Superior Sanitary District provides award-winning wastewater and solid waste services to residents, businesses and industries within its 500 square mile legislative boundaries in Southern St. Louis and northern Carlton counties, and is a nationally recognized leader in pollution prevention.


The exhibit is now part of the St. Louis County Historical Society’s Traveling Exhibits Program.  


For details on how to view this exhibit, contact the Great Lakes Aquarium.  Their website is http://www.glaquarium.org/.



Little Women 

Currently on display


“Little Women,” a sampling of wood carved pieces from the Joseph Priley Collection, is currently on display in the St. Louis County Historical Society's Fesler Gallery at the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center (the Depot).



This exhibit is viewable during regular museum hours with a ticket purchase for the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center (Depot) museums. 




Entrance is free to current members of St. Louis County Historical Society.



Generations of Service


Veterans’ Memorial Hall, a program of the St. Louis County Historical Society, invites the public to its long-term exhibit, Generations of Service. This exhibit presents the history of our local veterans from the Civil War to the Global War on Terror.









The exhibit officially opened to the public on Friday, August 7, 2009, and will continue to be open during regular museum hours of the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center. The exhibit will be a long-term exhibit on display for up to five years, though artifacts will be rotated.  Admission is free to the public.




This exhibit includes artifacts such as a cannonball from the Civil War, to a leather bomber jacket worn by Harold Rutka in WWII, to a SCUD missile component from Desert Shield/Storm. Also, there is a three-dimensional underground mine scene, which focuses on the home front story.  At another point, visitors can walk through a scene from Iraq, based on photos from a local veteran, Mark Hilleren.

Veterans’ Memorial Hall was established in 1909 and is a program of the St. Louis County Historical Society. It is the mission of Veterans’ Memorial Hall to preserve and collect veterans’ artifacts and to educate the general public about the history of veterans from northeastern Minnesota.

Exhibit information courtesy of former staff member, Daniel Hartman


Duluth Artist Loans Four Paintings for Exhibit at Depot   

The St. Louis County Historical Society is pleased to announce that Duluth artist Dale Lyons has loaned four original paintings for exhibit within the J. C. Ryan Forest History Gallery. The paintings focus on the use of draft horses in northern Minnesota logging in the late 19th – early 20th century. Lyons’ paintings are based on his research of the industry and era so as to be historically accurate. Lyons is an accomplished self-taught artist, with his first showing in 1984 at the Tweed Museum in Duluth. The use of draft horses is a new sub-topic for the gallery, and anyone interested in donating items with a history relating to St. Louis County draft horses may contact the Society’s Collection Manager at (218) 733-7583.  

The J. C. Ryan Gallery hosts an extensive display of artifacts and information about St. Louis County’s logging history. There are three short videos about early lumbering and sawmill operations. Photos, artifacts and information portray the hardships of early logging camp life and the various uses of wood over the decades, as well as the tools used to harvest the timber. On display are many items, from two-man hand saws to vintage gas chainsaws.

The St. Louis County Historical Society museum and office are located in the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center (“the Depot” building) at 506 West Michigan Street, across from the Duluth Public Library. There is public parking at 6th Avenue West and Michigan Street. One entry fee provides admission to building’s four museums. Annual membership holders of any organization housed in the Depot are admitted free. New memberships are available from the Visitor’s Services Desk. Museum days, hours and general information is available at www.duluthdepot.org and by phone at (218) 727- 8025.

Contact/More information:

Executive Director JoAnne Coombe at 218-733-7580 



Navy Reserve Exhibit at the Depot 

Veterans’ Memorial Hall opened the Navy Reserve exhibit, An Unforgotten Legacy, The History of the Duluth Naval Militia & Reserve on September 7, 2007 at the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center (the Depot). The exhibit focuses on the history of the Duluth Naval Militia and Reserve from its inception in 1903 to its closure in 2007. It includes an array of stories and events that were important to the men and women who trained or served at our local facility.

Navy exhibit unveiling

This exhibit has been organized by Veterans’ Memorial Hall with the help of the Navy Operations Support Center, Duluth, MN, USS Paducah and YP-61 Club, Northeast Minnesota Historical Center, and Minnesota Historical Society.


Veterans’ Memorial Hall is a joint project of the United States Military Service, veterans of northern Minnesota and the St. Louis County Historical Society.        

Exhibit information courtesy of former staff member, Daniel Hartman


Go to http://www.thehistorypeople.org/handouts.asp for information about our Traveling Exhibits Program.

To learn about our long-term exhibits, visit http://www.thehistorypeople.org/permanent.asp.


For information on our Affiliates' exhibits, go to: http://www.thehistorypeople.org/affiliates.asp.


Copyright 2007-2008 St. Louis County Historical Society