Monday, March 17, 2014

Thompson Hill Overlook - Thompson Point Overlook

Duluth, MN
US Highway 61/Interstate 35

This roadside feature was a Works Progress Administration project dating to 1938 and provided a scenic overlook on Highway 61 at the southern approach to the city of Duluth. It is located southeast of the Thompson Hill Rest Area, the top of the structure right along I-35 northbound, between Boundary Avenue and the TH 2 entry. [Note: this no longer exists or serves as an overlook] There is no safe way to view the site from the Interstate. The structure can be viewed from the rail tracks which run below the highway grade. It requires a short hike to get to the rail tracks; the Superior Hiking Trail east from the Spirit Mountain trail head will get you there.

I-35 at Thompson Hill
Southbound lanes near, northbound away. 

In the photo above the top of the 1938 Overlook can be seen along the northbound guardrail. This photo was taken from the Thompson Hill-Skyline Parkway Overlook, another historic feature.

Aerial view with photos from rail tracks

Another view of the top of the structure

The Mn DOT inventory sheet includes a description from the 1938 Annual Report of the Accomplishments of Roadside Development. Some 4,462 cubic yards of native stone were used to construct the wall. The report summarizes the project:
On the southerly approach into Duluth along T.H. #61, a beautiful panoramic view is obtained of the City proper with Lake Superior in the distance. This area is a natural stopping point for the travelling public to enjoy the unusual vista. Here under a W.P.A. setup, a stonemasonry concourse wall has been constructed to provide an area for parking which is separated from the highway traffic by a 6 foot island. Native stone was used throughout and provision was also made for pedestrian traffic by incorporating a flagstone walk along the concourse proper (Annual Report 1938:42).
The concourse, walkway and other grade level features are covered by grasses. 

The overlook wall seen from the rail grade

The wall is essentially a retaining wall for I-35. It is quite a massive and beautiful structure. Below, a 1948 aerial photo with arrows added pointing to overlook structure and roadway.

Note automobiles parked at overlook (MHAPO. (n.d.). Retrieved February 18, 2014,

Thompson Hill Overlook, Oct. 1997
(Susan Granger, Scott Kelly, and Kay Grossman. (1998, December). Historic Roadside Development
Structures on Minnesota Trunk Highways. Minnesota Department of Transportation)