Historic U.S. 61: Gooseberry Falls Concourse
Gooseberry Falls Concourse
Located: On the east side of State Highway 61 at the south end of the Gooseberry River Bridge in Gooseberry Falls State Park, Silver Creek Township, Lake County.
Constructed: 1936-1939, rebuilt in 1998.
Historic Context: Historic roadside structure built using CCC labor.
Status: Intact, restored.
Access: No longer accessible directly from the highway. Access is now via walking trails from the Gooseberry Falls rest area - follow the signs south of the bridge to the free public parking area (a state park pass is not required).
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The Gooseberry Falls Concourse is a massive stone edifice built in the late 1930's as part of the development of Gooseberry Falls State Park. It was designed by Edward Barber from the National Park Service, and constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a new-deal program that provided relief labor for unmarried, unemployed young men by putting them to work developing natural areas owned by various government agencies.
The plans for the construction of the wall are dated between 1935 and 1939, and show the work of both the National Park Service and the Minnesota Department of Highways. The first phase of the construction was completed in about 1936. This work included the central section of the wall, with its one overlook bay. The wall was originally fitted with rustic wood railings in several locations. Also built were parking areas on either side of the highway, which were separated from the road with 6 foot stone-curbed islands.
Work continued in 1937, when the road adjacent to the park was repaved, and the bridge over the Gooseberry River was widened to provide both pedestrian sidewalks and a wider driving lane (the bridge originally only had a 19 foot roadway, which was increased to 30 feet).
In 1938 the wall was extended north with an additional curved viewing bay, drinking fountain, and a concrete and stone staircase with a set of latrines built under them. Finally in 1939, the original wood railings were replaced with the stone rails that still exist today. As completed, the entire wall's inside face was lined with a flagstone sidewalk.
The wall remained mostly intact until the late 1990's, when the areas adjacent to Gooseberry Falls were massively redeveloped. The first step was the replacement of the old bridge in 1996, which required the moving of the highway into what had originally been the north parking area. The concourse was subsequently restored and redeveloped in 1998. Direct access from the highway was cut-off and replaced by trails leading from a parking area built further into the state park. These trails were built to ascend to the wall along its eastern face, providing both handicapped access and extra support.
The area along the west face of the wall was redeveloped into a plaza, with several interpretive signs and other features built on the site of the old south bridge approach, telling the history of the surrounding area. New sidewalks were built to provide better accessibility, while most of the old flagstone walk and stone curbs were removed and salvaged for use at select locations around the site.
- Yellow = Location of Concourse Wall
- Orange = Old location of U.S. 61
Photos - taken in April, 2010.
Looking north along the east face of the wall from the new multi-use trail added during the redevelopment of the site in 1998. The original central overlook bay of the wall is visible. These trails are essentially long ramps, separated by a large area of rip-rap (the random gray boulders seen at left). They probably also serve to help retain the wall.
Looking south along the wall from its west side. Note the stone rail openings ahead, and the new concrete walk.
Looking north on the south side of the wall towards the overlook bays.
Remnants of the old Gooseberry River Bridge's steel arch girders, preserved after it was dismantled in 1997. The stone walk around it is made of salvaged flagstone from the old sidewalk along the concourse. Also note the retaining walls behind the girders - these are not original, and were added in1998. The stone used in their construction may also be salvaged from the old stone walks.
Dedication plaque from the old bridge dating to its 1937 reconstruction.
The central overlook bay, looking north. The gray stone pavers seen here and elsewhere around the concourse are of new construction.
Interpretive signage at the central overlook bay, giving the history of the concourse wall.
The north end of the overlook wall, looking east towards Lake Superior. The features at this end of the wall were added in 1937-38. The remains of the old drinking fountain (the semi-circular structure) are visible on the right, as well as the stairs leading down to the base of the wall, where a set of bathrooms used to be (these have been closed and sealed). In the foreground is the wall's federal-aid dedication plaque. Also visible is a geologic marker, originally added in the 1950's in the north overlook bay.
More interpretive signage at the north end of the concourse. This marker outlines the construction of the old river bridge and its replacement.
A close-up of the previous photo - "You are standing on the old road's center line!" - also note the photo above, showing how the parking areas used to be arrayed directly along either side of the highway.
- Construction Plans - Gooseberry Falls State Park Overlook - dated 1937.
- MNDOT - Construction Plan for Bituminous Trails and Landscaping Located Adjacent to T.H. 61 in Gooseberry State Park, S.P. 3805-80. 5/27/1998.
- MNDOT - Historic Roadside Development Structures Inventory: Gooseberry Falls Concourse,1998.
- Civilian Conservation Corps - Wikipedia Article, Accessed June 22, 2011.
- Minnesota Department of Highways - Construction Plans - Bridge 3585 - dated 1924.
- Minnesota Department of Highways - Construction Plans - Bridge 3585 - dated 1937.