Lake Superior International Highway
Accessible only by water for nearly 15 years, the Split Rock Lighthouse benefited from the development of a major highway along the north shore of Lake Superior.
The North Shore road was originally called Trunk Highway No. 1 and was an important part of Minnesota's highway system when it opened in the mid-1920s.
Intense local efforts to promote the North Shore coincided with the development of the highway. In 1925 the Two Harbors Rotary Club petitioned the commissioner of highways to have Trunk Highway No. 1 designated the Lake Superior International Highway.
During this period, boosters across the nation were establishing specially named routes for automobiling. Perhaps the most well known was the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental highway across America. The Lincoln Highway dated from 1913, when automobile industry leaders encouraged communities to fund "seeding miles" on the Lincoln Highway. While many of the proposed trails were honest local endeavors, some of the more unscrupulous "trailblazers" extorted Highway Commissioner Charles M. Babcock characterized them as "highway parasites" in 1931.
The Two Harbors Rotary members were incensed when Babcock refused their request for special designation in the early 1920s. Babcock contended that the designation was pointless because Trunk Highway No. 1 had been "designated a National Highway and will be so marked." Besides, it was already well known as an important state highway. Babcock returned the $25 application fee and considered the matter ended.
Undaunted, the Rotary Club resubmitted their application and lobbied to be a registered state trail. The Highway Department relented, and the road was officially designated the Lake Superior International Highway on March 12, 1926. North Shore boosters had already christened the roadway with that name at the official opening of the highway on July 25, 1925.
Renamed Trunk Highway 61 to eliminate duplication of numbers in an expanded highway system in 1934, the Lake Superior International Highway's development allowed tourism to develop and flourish along the North Shore.
1996, September; MNDOT Final Report. Phase III Historical Mitigation T.H. 61 in Gooseberry Falls State Park and Bridge No. 3585
Prepared by Barbara Beving Long
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