North Street scene

This undated photo shows some of North Hibbing’s business district in probably the late nineteen-teens. Small piles of snow line the street. The first building on the left side of the street has a sign reading “Bus Station” and it appears that a bus is pulling up. The sidewalks are wooden and elevated from the street. Notice the lovely streetlights and the quite elaborate facade on the building on the right side of the street.

Last week, this page presented Part 1 of Alice Killorin’s story about growing up in Hibbing at the beginning of the 20th Century. She first wrote the story for a 1983 Hibbing Daily Tribune special publication celebrating the town’s 90th Anniversary.

Hibbing, (the town we today refer to as North Hibbing) was just beginning to take shape in the years of Alice’s childhood. Sometimes things there were quite rough-and-ready, but the beautiful town it would soon become was beginning to emerge.

Of course, that beautiful town is now almost completely gone. Its streets and yards, businesses and schools were removed so the iron ore in the ground could be dug up to build America. Only these treasured stories written down by those who lived there still remain.

As Paul Simon wrote in his song “Bookends” : “Preserve your memories, They’re all that’s left you.”

~ Mary Palcich Keyes

My father was a foreman in logging camps for the Swan River Logging Company and in summer and for Christmas vacations, we three children and a bosom friend, Della Bailey, went to the camp and spent several days. The camp clerk moved out of the office building and we three girls slept in a sort of bunk bed arrangement, while my brother slept with my father.

We spent our days mostly running back and forth between the office and the cook camp, where the cook and his assistant, known as the “cookee” let us eat as much and as often as we wanted. We ate not only hearty meals, but also munched on cookies, donuts, apples, etc., in between. Those men were good cooks and the food was well-cooked and tasty.

We went to the camp by train, the Great Northern. An engine and caboose came to town from the camp every day. On one of our trips to camp, we were waiting at the Hibbing Depot for the train to come in when a woman we did not know asked us to watch her luggage while she went across the street to a restaurant. The train came in before she came back. We had to get on, leaving her luggage unattended. The next day at camp when the engine and caboose returned, Hibbing Chief of Police Peter Wring and the woman got off. The luggage had been stolen and she thought we were the thieves, and she still wasn’t convinced when she left that we weren’t!

It spoiled our stay in camp. Although reassured by my father, we were afraid that we might have to go to jail when we got back to Hibbing. The police did find out that her estranged boyfriend had been watching from a vantage point every move she made and grabbed the luggage as soon as we got on the train. Needless to say, we learned a lesson or two from that experience!

Hibbing had several spectacular fires in those years. One of the fires stands out in my memory. The name of the hotel escapes me, but it stood on the corner of Railroad Street and Third Avenue, just across from the railroad tracks on the south edge of the “North Forty”. It was operated by Mr. and Mrs. Morau.

We had a wonderful fire department under the direction of Chief Charles McIllharghy, with good equipment and plenty of manpower. When a fire broke out in the hotel, due to the good fire department the fire was confined to the hotel. Only part of the building was gutted and very little damage was done to the outside walls.

The police department was “effective” and run quite differently from today. The police in those days didn’t read the law to a violator (known today as the Miranda warning) before arresting him, and if he gave resistance, they forcibly handcuffed him and led him off to jail to appear the next day before Judge Brady.

When World War I embroiled the United States in 1917, it took many of our boys, which touched almost every family in town, and was a sad event every time a new quota was called. Many of the boys enlisted and didn’t wait to be drafted. When the Armistice was signed in November of 1918, it was an occasion for great rejoicing and everyone gathered in the streets “uptown”. Whistles blew, the band played and there was much speech making. Of the many who went to war, most returned. But those who didn’t were remembered and honored by our townspeople ever since through several fine veterans’ organizations.

A colorful event in Hibbing’s history was the moving of North Hibbing in the 1920s and the building of the new town, known as “South Hibbing” to old timers, two miles to the south of the original town-site. Ordinary homes and smaller buildings were placed on special moving equipment and whisked to the new site, sometimes overnight.

But the larger buildings, such as the old Hibbing Hotel, the Colonial Building, and many of the business buildings on the streets just north of Howard Street in the business district of the new town-site, took much longer and were usually done over a weekend. People often lived in their homes while the house was moved. It was not unusual to see smoke coming out of the chimney and a few clothes hanging on a line strung across the front porch.

The town was a beehive of activity with all of the moving going on and the construction of the new business district on Howard Street and First Avenue and the new high school, which is a show place. When the Androy Hotel was completed there was a gala opening, with state officials and mining company dignitaries in attendance. The celebration lasted several days with a number of events scheduled.

The residence district of the original town-site wasn’t included in the move and it wasn’t until 20 or more years later, and many legal battles between townspeople and mining companies, that an arrangement was worked out whereby the companies were given tax considerations each year for buying a certain amount of residence property. The price of each parcel was based on its replacement value, which had depreciated to very little by that time with the only buyers being the mining companies. People offered their property at below valuation figures and those lower priced lots were accepted first by the companies. Many were distress selling. Those who could held out for the higher appraised value, but they had to wait a few years. The “North Forty” owners were able to sell direct to the companies very quickly because their land was sitting atop the richest ores. They got fabulous prices for their property, but the companies made up for it when they bought the two “South Forties” with savings in tax money.

It was stipulated in those later years that no buildings sold to the companies would be moved to South Hibbing, but toward the last the companies sold the houses back to the owner for one dollar and the houses were moved to the redistricted areas in the new town.

With the final sales, North Hibbing soon became part of the open pits.



The following items are taken from the Hibbing Daily Tribune or the Mesabi Ore, which are on microfilm at the Hibbing Public Library and/or Iron Range Resource Center at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm.


Sept. 15, 1944

Adam Sanduski, 54, operator of the Avon Theater since 1921, died Wednesday following a brief illness. Born in Poland, he had been a resident of Hibbing for the past 30 years. Burial services will be held Saturday at a Solemn Requiem High Mass at 8:30 a.m. with the Rt. Rev. J.A. Limmer officiating. There will be a recitation of the Rosary at the Dougherty Funeral Home Friday night at 7:30.


August 14, 1958

Bridgeman’s Self-Service Drive-In at the Graysher Shopping Center opens formally this Friday. The store will carry a complete line of Bridgeman Dairy products and have a fountain service plus a variety of sandwiches, coffee, homemade soups, French fries and other food selections. Jerry Klein, with Bridgeman’s in Duluth for the past eight years, will manage the new store. The building, of a non-commercial design to fit in with the close-by residential area, is surrounded by a lighted parking lot which will eventually be black-topped.


Dec. 2, 1960

That 40-foot spruce Christmas tree which graces the lawn of the St. Louis County Court House in Hibbing, was donated by Dr. P. Immatteo, Hibbing physician, who had it taken from his lawn and donated it to the county. It adds much to the yuletide decorations and lends considerable beauty to the courthouse grounds.


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