The CCC/WPA/Rustic Style historic resources in Jay Cooke State Park are located in three separate historic districts, each listed on the National Register. The three districts include a 6.5-acre Rustic Style district, a 7-acre Picnic Grounds district, and a 4-acre Service Yard district. The park includes both sides of the St. Louis River, a highly turbulent stream running through a very picturesque rock gorge. Architects for the park buildings were from the National Park Service.
The park's historic resources include:
Jay Cooke State Park CCC/WPA/Rustic Style Historic Resources are significant for their association with the development of the Minnesota state park system. The park is a major recreational facility used intensively by residents of the surrounding communities and the City of Duluth.
Jay Cooke State Park buildings and structures are architecturally significant as outstanding examples of Rustic Style construction featuring a dark local basalt rock that blends with the rocky gorge of the adjacent St. Louis River. Two exceptionally significant structures are The River Inn, one of the largest buildings in the state park system, and the Water Tower and Latrine, a particularly successful example of Rustic Style log and stone construction. The Swinging Bridge is also significant as one of only two examples in the state park system of a suspension bridge.
The landscape design for Jay Cooke State Park is architecturally significant for successfully concentrating the intensive-use areas of the park, which previously had been scattered along the entire seven-mile park drive.
Jay Cooke State Park was established in 1915 when the St. Louis Power Company donated 2,350 acres of land for that purpose. Large-scale development began in 1933, when a CCC camp (SP-2) occupied the park on June 22, 1933. This camp constructed the swinging bridge and the service yard, began developing the picnic grounds, and worked on eliminating soil erosion. The camp also helped in landscaping the Skyline Parkway so that the road would blend with its natural setting.
Because of declining CCC enrollment on a nationwide basis, this camp was one of three in Minnesota that were terminated unexpectedly in October 1935. The Lake Shore CCC camp north of Duluth (SP-18) provided the manpower to finish a number of projects, including the half-finished picnic shelter.
A second CCC Camp (SP-21 Company 1171) was established in Jay Cooke State Park in May 1939. This camp continued development at the park and rebuilt the Swinging Bridge and constructed the River Inn. The camp was terminated on March 25, 1942, just before the CCC came to an end. The WPA, active in the park on a limited basis, was mainly involved in road work.
For current information about Jay Cooke State Park, go to the DNR website.