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Archive Dive with the Superior Telegram

Interviews with local historians about a person, place or historic event. Brought to you by the reporters at the Superior Telegram and Duluth News Tribune.

Hosted By
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Maria Lockwood
Latest Episodes
Portrait of a Superior hero
Wed Nov 09 03:25:00 EST 2022
We follow the trail of a portrait of a local veteran who lost his life in World War I. The portrait of Henry Blomberg was taken down during a renovation of Old Main on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus. But the name for the portrait was lost. Years later, the portrait’s identity was discovered.

In this month’s episode, retired librarian and local historian Teddie Meronek joins Telegram reporter Maria Lockwood to guide us through the mystery.

Blomberg was born in Superior on Aug. 3, 1892 and after moving with his family to Aitkin, Minnesota, returned to Superior in 1914 to attend college as 22-year-old non-traditional student. During his time on campus, Blomberg was an active in sports, the student newspaper and was president of the debate team.

He also joined the Wisconsin National Guard, and after his 1916 graduation went with a group that was patrolling the United States/Mexico border. After graduating with a two-year degree in education, he spent a year teaching in Virginia, Minnesota. The U.S. would soon join World War I and having registered for the draft, Blomberg went to Texas to train and would eventually go into battle in France in 1918 with the U.S. Army’s 32nd Division. Blomberg performed many acts of heroism, including in the battles of Juvigny and Argonne. It was at Argonne on Oct. 5, 1918 where Henry lost his life, just five weeks before the end of the war.

After his death, Lt. Blomberg was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross which, after the Medal of Honor, is the nation's highest military honor. (Superior native Dick Bong also earned the Distinguished Service Cross in 1943).

Blomberg’s friends with the Superior Normal School debate team commissioned a painting of him, at a cost of about $300, and presented it to the college, where it hung in the auditorium for many years. But during a renovation, the portrait was taken down and put into storage and in the process, the name plate was lost. Without the name plate, it would be difficult to identify the person in the painting.

Almost 100 years after Blomberg’s death, Meronek wrote an article about him, and in this episode, she shares how her writing helped lead to the rediscovery of the portrait, which now hangs with a name plate on UW-Superior’s campus.

“That just makes me happier than anything I think I’ve ever done in all my time at the library,” says Meronek. “Every time I’m in Old Main, I stop and say hello to Henry.”

Throughout this episode, Meronek goes into detail about Blomberg’s life, time in school, his military career, his untimely death and more.

New episodes of Archive Dive are published monthly. Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts. Episodes are edited and produced by Duluth News Tribune digital producers Wyatt Buckner and Dan Williamson. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like to see covered, email Maria Lockwood at mlockwood@superiortelegram.com.

1893 Chicago World's Fair featured Douglas County's vanished Tiffany window, Superior whaleback
Wed Oct 12 01:00:00 EDT 2022
We unspool the story of a 1892 stained glass window that was meant to showcase Douglas County at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Designed by Tiffany Studios, it included whaleback ships, grain elevators and a bird’s eye view of Superior. When Douglas County commissioners traveled to see it displayed in the Wisconsin Building, they hated it. They called it a “perfect botch,” demanded Tiffany remove the window and commissioned a new one. No photographs of the window exist, just a sketch. Where it is now remains a mystery.

We’ll also learn about the only passenger whaleback ever built, the S.S. Christopher Columbus, which was built in Superior and ferried passengers to and from the Chicago World’s Fair.

It was over 100 years after the Chicago World's Fair in the 1990s when local historian and retired librarian Teddie Meronek first became aware of the stained glass window and she's been researching it ever since. In this month’s episode of Archive Dive, Meronek joins the Superior Telegram’s Maria Lockwood to discuss both the window and the whaleback.

New episodes of Archive Dive are published monthly. Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts. Episodes are edited and produced by Duluth News Tribune digital producers Wyatt Buckner and Dan Williamson. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like to see covered, email Maria Lockwood at  mlockwood@superiortelegram.com.

How Superior became home to Wisconsin's first and last Carnegie libraries
Wed Sep 14 01:00:00 EDT 2022
For 120 years, the Carnegie Library has stood on the corner of Hammond Avenue. The Superior City Council voted in July to purchase the time-worn building to repair it to a viable state. It was the first of 63 libraries to be built in Wisconsin with funding from industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The structure opened in 1902 and served the public until 1992 when the current library was opened. Since then, the vacant building has been the focus of big dreams, but none of them have panned out.

In this month’s episode of Archive Dive, local historian and retired librarian Teddie Meronek joins the Superior Telegram’s Maria Lockwood to take us on a trip through the building’s history, and discuss its importance to the people of Superior.

“It has meant so much to so many people over the years,” says Meronek. “Superior had its first library association in 1869 and we are a city that always prized libraries and what they could provide everybody in town.”

The Library was built in 1901 and opened in 1902 at a time when Superior’s population was approximately 30,000 people. Just three employees were on staff when the three-story sandstone library on Hammond Avenue opened its doors. The main floor featured chandeliers and nice furniture and the majority of the attractions, such as the children’s room. The public meeting rooms were located in the basement and the board room and art room were located upstairs. A mezzanine was added in the 1930s to help with space issues.

“They ran out of room almost immediately.”

Before the Hammond Avenue location added the mezzanine, Superior added another Carnegie library, as they received $20,000 in 1917 to build the one-story brick East End Branch on East Fifth Street.

Meronek grew up visiting both locations and would eventually go on to work at both sites, calling her career a “dream job.” Both locations closed their doors at the end of 1991, making way for the current Superior Public Library building on Tower Avenue. The East End branch was turned into a private residence, but the library on Hammond sits empty. Meronek has also been involved in historical preservation and hopes the building is part of Superior’s future.

“I said this at the city council meeting, not every old building can be saved, nor should it be saved, but this one needs to be saved. We have the first Carnegie library in Wisconsin. There are other cities that would kill to have a Carnegie library, we have two of them, the first and the last, and I think that we owe that building, just for the fact that it survived 120 years and has been mishandled and abused for the last 30 years of it, we owe it to that library to do what we can to save it.”

New episodes of Archive Dive are published monthly. Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts. Episodes are edited and produced by Duluth News Tribune digital producers Wyatt Buckner and Dan Williamson. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like to see covered, email Maria Lockwood at  mlockwood@superiortelegram.com.

How a Superior woman almost built a Frank Lloyd Wright house
Wed Aug 10 01:00:00 EDT 2022
Edith Carlson was a librarian who had a two-year campaign to build a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Superior. Had it succeeded, the design that Wright dubbed “Below Zero” would have been nestled in Superior’s Central Park neighborhood, near Lenroot’s Funeral Home and across from Gouge Park. The connection between the world famous architect and Carlson has captured the imagination of writers on two continents.

Local historian and retired librarian Teddie Meronek has written about Carlson. In this month’s episode of Archive Dive, Meronek discusses her journey in researching Carlson and how an email from writer Philippa Lewis of England led to learning more. Carlson has quite a story, and in her, Meronek found a kindred spirit, even though she had passed away before their paths could cross.

“When I finally tracked down what she did at the library, going through annual reports and things, I found that she was first hired as a general assistant, but then she became the station’s librarian, which made me feel good because that is what I was hired to do when I first went to work for the Superior Public Library,” said Meronek. In those annual reports, Meronek could see that Carlson was a determined advocate for literacy. “She was always petitioning for more books, more shelves, more space for the people she served.”

That determination led to Carlson reaching out to the world-renowned Wright, an architect who designed over 1,000 structures in his lifetime, when Carlson decided it was time to build a house. She lived with her parents and was savvy about finances, saving enough money to purchase land near Gouge Park on 4th Street, strategically along a bus line as Carlson didn’t have a car.

While Wright was famous and in high demand, Carlson wasn’t afraid to ask questions or even challenge him. During correspondence, an assistant wrote, “This is Mr. Wright’s 204th house.” Carlson scribbled in a note, “Well, it may be his 204th house, but it is my first.” She took the project very seriously, knowing it would likely be the only house she’d ever build in her lifetime.

“She had no problem standing toe-to-toe with him, saying this is what I need, this is my house and this is what I need, and most people would say, ‘It’s Frank Lloyd Wright,’” said Meronek.

The correspondence between Carlson and Wright went on for two years and the project faced various delays. In the end, ground would not be broken for a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Superior. The Great Depression had an effect, as around 1940, librarians in Superior took pay cuts and time off without pay. Suddenly now with slim paychecks, Edith couldn’t afford the price. She would eventually build a house near her parents’ home and the “Below Zero” house would eventually be built, just not for Carlson and not in Superior. Instead, the design was used elsewhere.

“She bemoaned the fact that it just wasn’t her loss, she also thought of it as Superior’s loss,” said Meronek.

New episodes of Archive Dive are published monthly. Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like to see covered, email Maria Lockwood at  mlockwood@superiortelegram.com.

Roth's department store in Superior was ahead of its time
Wed Jul 13 01:00:00 EDT 2022
A pre-1900 going-out-of-business sale prompted two brothers, Theodore Julius (T.J.) Roth and Alois August (A.A.) Roth to open up their department store in Superior instead of Chippewa Falls.

After opening in 1889, Roth Brothers department store offered a wide variety of items, from paint to records, while the owners wove themselves into the fabric of the community.

According to retired librarian and local historian Teddie Meronek, growing up in the area, everybody knew Roth's.

“They (T.J. and A.A.) had experience in running general stores, so they knew what people wanted.”

In this month’s episode of Archive Dive, Meronek shares the origins of the Roth brothers and their experience with general stores; how the closing of the Beehive Bazaar in Superior caused a change of plans; and how a coin toss played a part in the story.

The Roth brothers were innovative, offering questionnaires to customers; running unique ad campaigns; delivering purchases by sleigh; adding groceries to their inventory; and selling rose bushes, flower seeds and much more.

You could find everything at Roth's and while you were there, you could even ride an elevator, or two elevators at one of their locations. Roth’s also had the first public restroom in the area, though it’s not the kind you might think.

“I just remember going there and you could buy anything you wanted. If you needed a birthday card, it was there — or perfume or makeup and you could go upstairs and get something new to wear and you could also go get your hair done,” said Meronek. “It was such an icon, I think, and something that has totally disappeared from our small towns. Small town department stores that are independently owned.”

After the owners passed away, the store stayed in the family and remained open for many years. Its closing was announced in 1977 and the store made its final sales in 1978.

The legacy of Roth Brothers department store lives on, even inspiring the 2012 play “You’ll Find It at Roth’s” that was performed at the Douglas County Historical Society. Is a sequel a possibility?

New episodes of Archive Dive are published monthly. Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like to see covered, email Maria Lockwood at mlockwood@superiortelegram.com .

Garden clubs helped Superior blossom
Wed Jun 08 01:00:00 EDT 2022
Garden clubs bloomed in Superior for many decades, not only beautifying the city, but affecting change. Even today, their plantings and their footprints can be found in Superior. The clubs usually consisted of a group of ladies who would get together and work on gardens in their area. It was a social outlet, where they bonded over gardening and would take care of community gardens in public places.

“It always seemed like they were doing something for someone else, for the betterment of the community,” said local historian and retired librarian Teddie Merenok.

Meronek has studied their impact on the community, which ran actively from the 1920’s through the 1990s. In this month’s episode of Archive Dive, Meronek shares the origins of the first garden club in Superior. The Superior Garden Club, later known as the Central Garden Club, was organized in 1926 by sisters Mabel Stratton and Faith Kennedy. Their passion for gardening came from their father, Robert Kelly, the manager of The Land and River Improvement Company.

It turns out, Mabel and Faith weren’t the only ones passionate about gardening. They were going to cap their enrollment at 30, but everyone in town wanted to belong to it. By 1939, Superior had the largest garden club in the state, with almost 300 people. Eventually the club would be broken down into auxiliaries, sometimes along neighborhood lines. Other garden clubs formed and would spread throughout Douglas County.

“They just loved these flowers, loved gardening and just wanted everyone to enjoy it as much as they did,” said Meronek.

Club members learned landscaping, held flower shows and events, sponsored school clubs, and were ahead of their time in promoting planting gardens that would attract bees, birds and wildlife. The clubs also kept their notebooks, addresses, newspaper clippings and pictures in scrapbooks as colorful as the gardens that they tended.

New episodes of Archive Dive are published monthly. Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like to see covered, email Maria Lockwood at mlockwood@superiortelegram.com.

Vanished communities along the South Shore railroad
Wed May 11 01:00:00 EDT 2022
“Hitch a ride” on the South Shore Railroad through Douglas County during this month’s Archive Dive podcast. Brian Paulson, local historian and member of the Old Brule Heritage Society, joins us again to explore the vanished communities that sprang up along the tracks of what was officially known as the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railway in the early 1900s.

“These were not actually towns. They were not incorporated towns. They were all smaller hamlets or settlements that were located within the large town of Brule,” said Paulson. "The town of Brule at the time, the boundaries were from the Superior city limits all the way eastward to the Bayfield County line and on the north-south line, from the shores of Lake Superior to what is now Highway B. So the township of Brule at the time covered about the northern third of Douglas County and all of these settlements that we are going to be talking about were located within that expansive town of Brule.”

A number of these communities changed names multiple times, depending on who held more money or influence in the area. Hop aboard the Limited in Superior's East End with us to visit Rock Crusher, Andersonville and other communities that have been lost to time. Paulson also shares a story of the South Shore Railroad fixing up their railroad from Superior to Winneboujou in order to look good for President Calvin Coolidge, who spent time in northwest Wisconsin in 1928.

“It’s always a pleasure to share a bit of our local history with the folks,” said Paulson.

New episodes of Archive Dive are published monthly. Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like to see covered, email Maria Lockwood at mlockwood@superiortelegram.com.

A renewed interest to rebuild historic Superior arch
Wed Apr 13 01:00:00 EDT 2022
Over a century ago, an arch honoring Civil War veterans stood over the intersection of Broadway Street and Tower Avenue in Superior. 

“It was like our Aerial Lift Bridge,” said local historian and retired librarian Teddie Meronek. “It was so iconic even though many people have never seen it. It’s because of the postcards that people know about it.” 

On this month’s episode of Archive Dive, Meronek shares the origin story of the 90-foot tall arch that was built in 1900 at a cost of $500. The structure that welcomed members of the Grand Army of the Republic didn’t last long, however, as it started to deteriorate from the elements and was taken down in the 1920s.

Today, there is renewed interest in bringing the arch back to Superior. 

“I hope it happens this time,” said Meronek. “I’d love to see it. I think it’s a beautiful thing.” 

New episodes of Archive Dive are published monthly. Subscribe here or visit superiortelegram.com for information on upcoming episodes.

Railroad route unlocks Douglas County history
Wed Mar 09 01:00:00 EST 2022
Archive Dive is a monthly podcast hosted by reporter Maria Lockwood. Episodes dip into the archives of historic events, people and places in Superior and Douglas County with local historians.
Superior wartime wedding attracts worldwide attention
Wed Feb 09 01:00:00 EST 2022
Archive Dive is a monthly podcast hosted by reporter Maria Lockwood. Episodes dip into the archives of historic events, people and places in Superior and Douglas County with local historians.