The Morgan Park neighborhood, named after U.S. Steel’s founder J.P. Morgan in 1914, was built by U.S. Steel to serve its Duluth Works steel plant in the early 1900’s. During its designing phase in 1913 it was named "Model City" before being renamed. Morgan Park was run by the U.S Steel Corporation until it was deeded to the City of Duluth in 1933. Morgan Park thrived with recreational facilities, community clubs, the Lake View Store (billed as America's first indoor mall), K-12 school, and even its own police and fire department. The steel plant eventually declined and the last of the facilities closed in 1981.
Connected to the city of Duluth by an East and West road link, the town was somewhat isolated from the rest of the city and only employees of the U.S. Steel Corporation and its subsidiaries could live there until the 1930s,. The Morgan Park Company, a direct subsidiary of Minnesota Steel Company who operated the steel plant, was responsible for trash pickup, lawn and house care, police and fire protection, health care (until the hospital closed in the 1920s) and snow removal. Residents of the town were expected to keep their homes in a generally conservative and well kept manner. Failure to do so, and the Morgan Park Company would accomplish the task(s) for you and deduct accordingly from your paycheck.
Morgan Park's Industry
The Minnesota Legislature considered imposing a hefty ore tax on every ton of ore that left the vast deposits on the Iron Range in the early 1900’s. U.S. Steel built the manufacturing complex at Duluth in trade for producing some finished materials within the state that supplied the most iron ore to the company,. The idea was that coal and other raw materials could be hauled to Duluth in their otherwise empty cargo holds while en route for the iron ore they hauled to the mills on the lower lakes.
The Minnesota Steel Company, incorporated by U.S. Steel in 1907, was a subsidiary of U.S. Steel in Duluth. The steel plant poured its first ingot of steel on December 11th, 1916 and was the largest integrated steel works west of Chicago until Geneva Steel was built in 1943. Minnesota Steel Company was the largest employer in the city of Duluth from its inception to its closing, to include the steel and cement plants, and was the fourth largest industrial manufacturing facility in the State of Minnesota. Minnesota Steel was the holding company for the steel plant until it was leased to the American Steel and Wire Division (AS&W) of U.S. Steel in June 1932 as part of a restructuring.
Another restructuring move by U.S. Steel in 1964 placed several of its smaller operations under one division. The steel plant became known as USS Duluth Works from this point on. The Duluth Works was primarily a wire product manufacturer, taking raw materials such as iron ore and coke, and converting them into iron and, later, steel for the production of blooms, bars, billets and rods. The Duluth Works shipped many of its semi-finished products to other U.S. Steel mills for finishing, while the merchant and wire mills utilized its own steel to furnish various types of nails, wire, barbed wire, fencing and fence posts, highway mesh, and sign posts and other various products. As an act of pride, the Duluth Works nail department left out the fourth barb, used in holding the wire and then striking the top of it to make a head, leaving an obvious omission on the side of the nail to signify that this nail was made in Duluth and was used in promotions in the Twin Ports area to entice consumers to "Look for the missing fourth barb" on the nail to in fact see if it was made at Duluth Works.
Duluth Works fence posts, steel wool and barbed wire, were only produced within the U.S. Steel empire solely at the Duluth Works from the late 1930’s until it closed. The wire mesh product, created in 1954, was instrumental in the building of the ICBM missile silos of the midwest for the Strategic Air Command of the United States Air Force.
Steel Mill Operations Close
In 1930, after years of debate and speculation, the MPCA gave U.S. Steel three years to conduct a study of its harmful emissions at the Duluth Works and a two years follow up window to implement corrective actions. U.S. Steel decided to close the "hot side" of the Duluth Works in September, 1971. Sixteen hundred steel workers were out of a job. The cold side operations continued, using steel from other U.S Steel plants, to make rod and wire products, until it was closed in October 1973. The cement plant, operated by Universal Atlas Cement Company - another subsidiary of U.S. Steel, closed in 1976. The coke plant, the last of U.S. Steel's hold on Morgan Park and the city of Duluth, was closed in 1981.
The Pollution Control Agencey placed the site on the U.S. Superfund list in 1984. That year, buildings were inspected and harmful materials removed and in 1988, razing and demolition of the once massive complex began. The last of the buildings was brought down in 1997. Today the land of the former steel and cement plants sit primarily vacant. Although the cement plant has been deemed as "cleaned" by U.S. Steel and the city of Duluth, the former steel plant site of the Duluth Works still has areas affected with pollution which are areas of concern for area residents and prospective new tenants of the property. The MPCA, EPA and U.S. Steel continue to monitor and treat the 640-acre (2.6 km2) site and surrounding areas.
Future Industry Development
The Duluth company Ikonics Corporation, in April 2008, has expressed intent to build a warehouse facility on the former cement plant site and has made preparations on the land to move forward with the plan and the City of Duluth's Duluth Economic and Development Authority, or DEDA, using up to 40 acres of the former industrial plant.