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Duluth History

The Duluth Rose Garden

A Pretty Presence In Duluth Since 1930

By: Rob Hedburg | July 9, 2019

Greetings! After a hiatus, the Visit Duluth history blog is back! With summer in full swing, today’s blog will explore the history of Duluth’s beautiful Rose Garden!

“Stop and smell the roses.” As the idiom directs, we all should slow down and take in the beauty of everyday life. The Duluth Rose Garden offers an opportunity to stop and smell the roses both figuratively and literally. Beautiful blooms and aromas greet those who choose to visit this scenic Duluth park. Visitors to the Rose Garden today can enjoy more than three thousand bushes containing at least one hundred varieties of roses, in addition to over twelve thousand other plantings. The Rose Garden stands today as it has since the 1994 completion of Interstate 35’s expansion through eastern Duluth. How did this park come to be? The answer involves partnership between the city and volunteers along with the placement of a particular pair of landmarks.


Credit: @cheshirekatt13 on Instagram

Duluth has had a rose garden of one form or another since 1930. Park Department Superintendent F. Rodney Paine oversaw the first planting, which used plants from the municipal nursery along with plants donated by the Duluth Garden Flower Society. Over time, this garden would fall into disrepair but would see revitalization in the late 1960s.

In 1967, Ausma Klintz of the Duluth Rose Society designed an English-style garden, using concentric circles as the design layout for the garden. The cost of design and installation was $5,000, or around $38,000 adjusted for inflation. During the late 1980s, the garden was temporarily removed as Interstate 35 expanded to where it currently ends at Twenty-Sixth Avenue East. Upon completion of the expansion of the interstate in 1994, the Rose Garden was rebuilt in a way that closely resembled Klintz’s 1967 design.

At the center of the inner-most circle of the Rose Garden is the George C. Stone memorial fountain. Stone served as the first treasurer for the city of Duluth in 1870, helped in founding Duluth’s first Chamber of Commerce and advocated for mining on the Vermillion Range and Mesabi Iron Range. The Stone monument first was erected in 1905 at the junction of Superior Street and London Road on a small plot between Ninth Avenue East and Tenth Avenue East. In 1927, it moved to the eastern edge of Lake Shore Park, or what is now called Leif Erikson Park. It has since been used as the focal point of the Rose Garden’s layout.

A bronze statue of Leif Erikson marks the western edge of the Rose Garden. Leif Erikson was a Norse explorer who is the first known European to have set foot on North America prior to Christopher Columbus. This statue was erected in 1956 and was sculpted by a John Karl Daniels, a Norwegian immigrant. The statue depicts Leif Erikson with a winged-tipped helmet, which goes against the common historical consensus that Vikings did not wear horns or wings on their helmets. Interestingly, Daniels’s sculptures of Erikson are the only ones that feature a winged helmet.

Presently, the Rose Garden in managed by the city of Duluth with the help of the Lake Superior Rose Society. For more information on the Rose Garden, including on how its adjacent park was dubbed Leif Erikson Park two separate times, be sure to check out this article from Zenith City Online! Are you interested in renting out the Rose Garden for an event? Contact the City of Duluth’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Happy Travels!

Rob Hedburg
Administrative Assistant
info@visitduluth.com