Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pillsbury Mine Overlook

Chisholm, MN
US Highway 169/MN Highway 73

The Pillsbury Mine Overlook was located along both sides of US 169/MN 73 just south of Chisholm. This site was sometimes referred to as the Miner's Look-Out. The overlook was abandoned some time ago and guardrails block the old parking areas which are surrounded by chain link fencing. The highway passes through the Pillsbury mine.

US169/MN73 running through the Pillsbury mine
USGS MN Hibbing 2010

The overlook, built in 1962 by the Minnesota Highway Department, "aroused considerable public interest as an added tourist attraction. Lookouts will be built along a one-fifth mile portion of the road that traverses the Pillsbury open-pit mine for better viewing of the pits." ¹ This was part of a realignment project for Highway 169 which also included a bridge "to carry the Oliver Iron Mining division railroad tracks over the relocated highway." ²

The ribbon cutting for the work was noted in the October 1963 Minnesota Highways.

A 1972 aerial photograph shows the bridge and overlook areas (with parking stripes)

1972 Aerial photo - MnDNR

The east side consisted of a parking area with a rectangular extension jutting to the east. A lectern-style stone marker is located at the north end of the east parking area. The site is on a slope in the road, down traveling north and up traveling south. The present roadway is above the grade of the old overlook.

Stone marker and east parking area

Stone marker built from local rock, plaque removed

The marker and parking area are deteriorating. The railroad tracks seen behind the stone marker are the trolley tracks for the Discovery Center located a half mile north on Hwy 169.

East parking area

Rectangular parking extension on east side

The west side consisted of a parking area off the highway.


West side parking area

Trees and brush have grown tall and thick enough since the site was abandoned to block most of the view of the old mine.

The construction log³ for Hwy 169 does not specify when the overlook was closed. In 1981 "traffic barrier construction" was completed. A 1989 aerial photograph shows the overlook in seemingly intact condition.

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¹ Minnesota Highway News, April, 1962, Minnesota Highway Department. From Historic Roadside Development Structures on Minnesota Trunk Highways
² Ibid
³ State of Minnesota Department of Highways, Construction Project Log Record, TH 169/73 W. Co. Line - N. Jct. T.H. 73 in Chisholm