Draining Zenith City
Duluth, MN

Clark House Creek

Clark House Creek (Cascade Park) Drain

Clark House Creek is another Zenith City waterway that tends to bubble to the surface when the rain really begins to fall. It is named after Duluth’s first hotel, built adjacent to the stream in 1869 on the West 100 block of Superior Street.

Upstream from the Duluth’s first hotel, city leaders established Cascade Park in 1870, four acres near First Avenue West and Sixth Street, with the creek in its center. When an ornamental stone pavilion was added to the park in 1895, Clark House Creek was a major feature. Park planner William King Rogers had championed such a plan since May of 1888.

Cascade Creek in Cascade Park. Postcard.
Cascade Creek in Cascade Park. Postcard.

The stream was diverted into a culvert above Mesaba Avenue’s intersection with 1st Avenue West—the same place it begins it underground journey today. It was directed to flow through the pavilion’s lower level and out into daylight via a pool at the structure’s base.

From there it was carried toward the lake in a stone and mortar trough built to match the pavilion, past picnickers and jaunters.

The artificial waterway extended to West Fourth Street where the flow was diverted underground via a culvert established in 1890. Lower sections had been completed in the mid-1880s and incorporated the runoff with an existing storm sewer following 1st Avenue West, eventually running to the railyard below Michigan Street.

Sarah below Cascade Park. This space was destroyed when the park flooded.
Sarah below Cascade Park. This space was destroyed when the park flooded.

The pavilion, sadly, was severely damaged during a storm in 1897. In the 1950s, parts of the park were divided and sold, and most of the structures were demolished, including the trough that guided the creek. Rather, the culvert above Mesaba was directly connected to the one above 4th, so that the creek would no longer see the light of day. Unless, it seems, the Zenith City finds itself below a giant rainstorm.

1904 Sewer Lid in Central Hillside.
1904 Sewer Lid in Central Hillside.

Like Brewery Creek, Clark House has at various times erupted from the ground to the surprise of those who had no notion they were living atop miniature rivers. The flood of 1972 caused the usual gentle waters of the creek to bore right out of the ground and send mud, rocks, and other debris into downtown. The city replaced parts of the culvert left the creek to be forgotten by most of Duluth, until 2012.

Many Duluthians will recall the damage done to the west side of downtown when the largely ignored park below Mesaba was turned into a muddy geyser. Again, Clark House Creek had its revenge on the city that pushed it into an early grave, and it is doubtless not the last time. The place where the stone trough met the brick drain that carried the stream under downtown still exists under the park and is viewable through a small grate near the lower retaining wall.

References »

  • The Budgeteer 25 Sept. 1974. Web.
  • Engineering-contracting 39 (1913): 47. Web.
  • In The Tunnels. WDIO, 2013. Film.
  • Various. (1904-1974). Duluth News Tribune.
  • Various. (1880-1888). Duluth Daily News.