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



Veterans Memorial Hall Exhibit Grand Re-Opening


Veterans Memorial Hall, a program of the St. Louis County Historical Society, hosted a public reception and press conference on Tuesday, May 30, at 2:00 PM at the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center (Depot) in the Great Hall. The reception celebrated a major redesign of Veterans Memorial Hall to honor those St. Louis County citizens who served in the US military.


The exhibit serves as a place to learn what these individuals did for their country and for this region. There are many stone memorials in the Northland, but these usually only mention the names of the women and men who died and do not tell the story of their service.


The St. Louis County Historical Society, a premier historical organization in Minnesota, redesigned the exhibit to tell these stories and to encompass all eras from the Civil War to the current Global War on Terror.


The exhibit includes artifacts and stories from local veterans from all conflicts. The many artifacts include the Presentation Silver from the USS Duluth on loan from the US Navy, artifacts from the USS Duluth on loan from the USS Duluth Crewmembers Association.

Of special note is the redesigned Medal of Honor Row honoring Major Henry A. Courtney, Jr. and four other St. Louis County military men Michael Colalillo, Oscar F. Nelson, Donald E. Rudolph and Dale E. Wayrynen. Veterans Memorial Wall honors veterans from St. Louis County who have lost their lives in US wars.


Visitors will also see a rare 1818 twenty star US flag, an expansion of a northern Minnesota iron mine so vital to both world wars, a fife belonging to the last Civil War Union Army survivor, and a hat from the Spanish American War.


Also displayed is a decorated WWI helmet, a cup from the USS Paducah and a leather bomber jacket from WWII, an Arrowhead Patch made for men serving in the Korean War, and prisoner of war memorabilia from WWII and Vietnam. Ojibwe soldiers and sailors are honored with a bandolier bag and tribal flags, along with a replica Code Talkers Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.


Uniforms and tools used in several Cold War conflicts are part of the exhibit along with uniforms with individual supplies and photographs from Desert Shield/Storm, and a full uniform from a service member of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Veterans Memorial Hall collects and preserves veterans’ stories and artifacts and educates the public on veterans’ history in northeast Minnesota. It does this through exhibits and a website (vets-hall.org), which currently more than 7,500 veterans’ stories.


The exhibit was made possible by a generous grant from The Depot Foundation and by the support of St. Louis County.



Old Country Memories

A selection of pieces from the Old Country Memories collection is currently on display.

Entrance is included with ticket purchase to the Depot museums.

Current members of St. Louis County Historical Society may view this exhibit for FREE, during museum hours!

Ballet Exhibit

"Once upon a Ballet" features costumes and props from Minnesota Ballet official productions of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and 1997-2008 The Nutcracker.

The exhibit is located in the Small Fesler Gallery on the main floor (3rd floor) of the Depot in Duluth, Minnesota.

Entrance is included with ticket purchase to the Depot museums.

Current members of St. Louis County Historical Society may view this exhibit for FREE, during museum hours!

Albert Woolson Exhibit

The St. Louis County Historical Society is currently displaying a panel exhibit in honor of Albert Woolson, the last surviving veteran of the Union Army, at the Duluth International Airport. 

Photo courtesy of the David Wisted Post #28: https://www.facebook.com/Post28duluth/?pnref=story.

Lake Superior Ojibwe Gallery

Located on the 4th floor of the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center (the Depot)

The Ojibwe Gallery features the work of internationally recognized 19th century painter Eastman Johnson.  The gallery is a project of the St. Louis County Historical Society, custodians of the art depicting the Ojibwe people when Johnson visited the “Head of the Lakes” in 1856 and 1857.

According to Society Executive Director JoAnne Coombe “The mandate for the gallery – conveying the voice and viewpoint of the Lake Superior Ojibwe – developed after years of collaborative discussion with a hardworking American Indian Advisory Committee -  comprised of tribal appointees from the Fond du Lac, Bois Forte and Grand Portage Bands – and at large members of the American Indian community.”  “The committee will now focus on educational programming and traveling exhibits to celebrate the Ojibwe way of life – past and present.”

The Lake Superior Ojibwe Gallery project was made possible by the support of the residents of St. Louis County and funding provided through the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, the JNM Gift Trust and the Depot Foundation.  The Historic Union Depot Corporation and the St. Louis County Historical Society co-hosted the dedication and related activities.

Crossroads of a Continent

Reinstalled on the second floor of the Depot (also know as the mezzanine)

David Wheat Statue Now on Second Floor at Duluth International Airport


Salute to Servicewoman

St. Louis County Historical Society is currently displaying our Salute to Servicewomen exhibit at the Hibbing Courthouse (Hibbing, MN).  


Early in the 20th century, women’s service corps began to be established. Over 35,000 women served in or with the Army, Navy, and Marines, and Coast Guard in World War I (1917-1918). They were nurses, stenographers, telephone operators, and food service/support personnel. Four hundred died, most in the influenza epidemic.


Women served in the largest numbers in United States history in World War II (1941-1945). Over 400,000 were WACS (Women’s Army Corps), WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service), WASPS (Women AirForce Service Pilots), the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, and SPARS (Coast Guard Women’s Reserve). The Public Health Service Cadet Nurse Corps trained women as nurses. Women served in the European and Pacific Theaters and on the homefront in vital, but noncombat, jobs. They were nurses, supply personnel, drivers, test pilots, artillery trainers, communications specialists, intelligence workers, clerks, cooks, storekeepers, photographers, and office administrators. After the war, they were mustered out. It was not until 1948 that women began to be given permanent status in the Armed Forces. 


The Korean War (1950-1953) and the Vietnam War (1965-1975) brought many women into the service again. Most were nurses serving in in-country hospitals and mobile units. But this was a time of change. In 1967, the ceiling on the highest grade a woman could achieve was lifted and, in the 1970s and 1980s, Officer Training Corps (OTC) programs and service academies opened to women. Women entered the Reserves and the National Guard, were integrated into the regular branches of the service, and became officers in all branches. Over 41,000 women were deployed during Desert Storm and Desert Shield (1990-1991) where they served in noncombat zones. 


Today, women are enlisted personnel and officers. Coming from many backgrounds, they represent the integrated Armed Forces. Women pilot and co-pilot planes, captain ships, command flight squadrons, are astronauts, and serve as tank mechanics, medics, and radio operators. Over 14% of the Armed Forces, 165,000 enlisted personnel and 35,000 officers, are women. Many have served tours of duty in Iran and Afghanistan. And in 2013, the most recent change took place when the ban on women serving in combat zones was lifted.  

Text is from Salute to Servicewomen panel exhibit.

Explore Eli’s Farm


Experience this new children’s Finnish themed interactive exhibit, Explore Eli’s Farm.  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.


The St. Louis County Historical Society has recreated a scene from the popular Eli Wirtanen Finnish Farmstead located 40 miles north of Duluth on the Vermilion Trail (Hwy.4).  Eli was 34 when he homesteaded this property in 1904.  The farm stands as a tribute to our area’s early settlers.  Now a child sized dove-tailed corner log cabin nestled in the Depot and surrounded by a garden, chicken coop and sauna offers hands-on learning opportunities.  Here children will learn through play as they perform chores typical of life on Eli’s farmstead.


The new permanent exhibit was funded by a grant from the Depot Foundation and was created with the support of the Friends of the Wirtanen Pioneer Farm in Markham and the Nordic Center in Duluth.



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

On display at the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center

"Return to the River" originally opened in 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 part of the St. Louis County Historical Society’s Traveling Exhibits Program.  




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 may be viewed 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.




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 




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