Shedding Light On Illuminating The Aerial Lift Bridge

Shedding Light On Illuminating The Aerial Lift Bridge

“The Aerial Lift Bridge is the symbol of Duluth,” declared chairman of Project Duluth Committee John Griden in 1966. “We want to do everything possible to promote it to dramatize Duluth to tourists."

The committee raised $21,000 ($200,000 today) from 10,000 donors to fund the illumination of Duluth's iconic bridge.

November 17, 1966

Before a crowd of thousands, State Representative John A Blatnik threw the switch on the first lights consisting of twelve 1,000-watt mercury vapor bulbs, calling the lights, "a magnificent symbol of the rebirth of our area"

Twelve 1,000 watt mercury vapor lights were the first to illuminate "the symbol of Duluth." Photo by Duluth News Tribune.

It took time for the lamps to warm up to full power, but when they did, they bathed the bridge in what the newspaper called a "radiant, silver-blue light."  Zenith City Online.

The lights reflected poorly on the dark and dull Essex green bridge, spurring a campaign to paint it silver in 1970, according to Duluth News Tribune Attic.

Prior to 1970 the bridge was a almost black Essex green. Photo by Charles Curtis, Duluth News Tribune

High-pressure sodium lights burn bright

The high-pressure sodium lights installed in 1987 gave the bridge a bright amber hue, visible from Thompson Hill as motorists descended into the city. Photo by Dennis O'Hara.

July 4, 1987

New lights, funded by Duluth Rotary Club 25 were illuminated. There is a historical marker on the foot of the bridge which states:

The present dramatic lighting, first seen on July 4, 1987, is made possible through a generous gift from the Rotary Club of Duluth, Club # 25. It symbolizes the warm welcome extended by Duluth citizens to ships and visitors from around the world.

Historical Marker at the NE corner of the Lift Bridge.

March 2020

In March 2020, the city quietly changed the high-pressure sodium lights on the Aerial Lift Bridge to LED lights. They reportedly cost $155,000, and the city told Fox 21 News that the new lights were “expected to last 22.5 years while saving the city $5,000 annually on energy costs.”

The LED lights were installed in March of 2020. Photo by Fox 21 News Duluth.

March 2024

The color of the lights illuminating the bridge is adjusted from the standard seen since the LED lights were installed in March 2020. It is not known if this new color is temporary or permanent. LED lights can be adjusted to any color on the spectrum.

The color of the LED lights are adjusted just prior to the opening of the 2024 shipping season on March 19. Photo by David Schauer.

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