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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
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.
Introducing: Archive Dive with the Superior Telegram
Thu Jan 13 16:28:24 EST 2022
First episode slated for February 9, 2022.