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A new view of the Zenith City

The Duluth Experience History Tour gives tourist and residents alike a chance to learn more about the town’s history. Staff members left to right: Dave Grandmaison, Tim Wilson, James Sanders and Paul Helstrom. (Photo submitted)

If the city of Duluth was a building, it would be a library. From Glensheen Mansion to the Incline Station to Canal Park, there are stories in every direction. However, sometimes there are just too many directions for the average tourist to follow.

This summer, in conjunction with the University of Minnesota’s Historic Glensheen Mansion and the William A. Irvin, the Duluth Experience will conduct historical tours that “connect the dots” of old Duluth in order to offer tourists and locals a cohesive narrative of Duluth’s history.

The Duluth Experience is a young company that started in the beer business. The idea was posed in February of 2013, and the brewery tours were running by that July.

“From the very beginning, we knew we were going to be a brewery tour company,” said co-founder Dave Grandmaison. “Shortly after we started developing our business plan, we identified history and adventure tours as two other components that we wanted to do as well.”

Soon the company was established enough to move forward. It was time to take a leap of faith.

“My cousin Paul Hellstrom, who is also a business partner in the company, is kind of a history geek and so he really pushed the history side of our business,” said Grandmaison. “We did a couple of history tours last summer that were smaller in scope to see if there was interest.”

The idea of Duluth history tours took hold and before long, researching and planning were underway.

“We have teamed up with Tony Dierckins, a local historian and publisher of Zenith City Online, to provide the public with Duluth’s rich history,” said co-founder Tim Wilson.

The tour will include Canal Park, famous east side houses, the Glensheen Mansion tour, a scenic tour of Skyline Parkway and the tour of the William A. Irvin, all within a consolidated narrative. The guides will provide a thorough line of Duluth history, connecting each event and location to another.

“It’s a great way to marry the history of the ore industry of Chester Congdon and the ore history of the Irvin. It brings it full circle,” said Lucie Amundsen, marketing director at Glensheen. “When people take this tour they’re going to have a bigger picture of the Northland history.”

The Duluth Experience is hoping that not only tourists will take these tours, but locals will as well.

“A lot of locals don’t know the history of Duluth,” said Grandmaison. “You’ve got places like Glensheen, they’re doing a really good job of promoting that ‘Historical Renaissance’ in Duluth. People are wanting to know more.”

The company is hoping to ride on the coattails of the “Localism” movement, which has taken hold throughout the nation. Those taking part simply try to eat, drink and live with an emphasis on their community. That involves understanding and appreciating their community’s history.

“I think there’s a growing local interest in figuring out how we got here, what’s our history and who we are as Duluthians,” said Grandmaison.

This new tour will benefit the two historical sites to which it is providing traffic.

“It’s long overdue,” said DECC executive director Dan Russell. “Duluth has evolved as this incredible tourist destination.”

The Duluth Experience provides several other tours, including their brewery tour and their adventure tours, which include road biking, mountain biking and kayaking.

“They really have their hearts in this project,” Russell said.

The history tours are held Sunday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with no lines and an intimate setting with limited numbers.

“It’s basically a VIP history tour of Duluth,” said Grandmaison.

To learn more call (218) 464-6337 or visit www.theduluthexperience.com.

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