Guest Blog: The Mesabi by Motorcycle Part I

Editor’s Note: Please enjoy this guest blog by traveler, teacher and motorcycle enthusiast Phil Holbo. Phil and his wife traveled from the Twin Cities area in the spring of 2018 to experience the Mesabi Iron Range by car and motorcycle. Enjoy reading about their adventures! 

When I told my niece, I was going to tour Hibbing High School, she asked, “What for?” You might think the same, so let me share with you why. In a word, spectacular! Any building like this is worth a look. Hibbing High School is an example of what a community can, did, and still do, to support their school.

Hibbing High School is frequently called “Castle in the Woods”. Because the mining company determined valuable iron ore was under the City of Hibbing, the entire town was moved. The company paid for building the new high school at a cost of $4,000,000 in 1920.

From Holiday Inn Express-Mountain Iron, we rode into Hibbing. Check a current map, because the City of Hibbing wasn’t always where it is now. In 1918, the mining company determined Hibbing was sitting atop a rich ore deposit. Hibbing, and its high school had to move. Yes, the entire town had to move, two miles south of its original location.

Parking the motorcycle outside the Sportsmen’s, inside it’s easy to tell this is the place for breakfast. Large tables are full, and conversations are lively. Tasty food, good service, who would ask for more?

The auditorium is capable of seating 1,800. The ceiling panels were created on site during construction. These ceiling panels are unique as they have white backgrounds, unusual for the style.

At the school, we were met on the front steps by Mary and Joe. That’s right, just like in the Bible. Both attended school there and are on the historical board. They shared a comprehensive history with us. After visiting the “History Room”, filled with artifacts, year books, and memorabilia, Mary took us on the tour starting with the flag pole dedications; then inside we went. The spectacular building is especially well preserved. It was a good tour.

We discovered several of the open pit mine overlooks were closed, some permanently. We inquired about that and, well let’s just say, “I know a guy who knows a guy.” With that, we were able to visit the new overlook for the Hull Rust Mine, even though it is still under construction. So, through locked gates, and in “our guy’s” SUV, we received a personal tour of the area around what will be open to the public in 2019.

. It is very hard to gain a perspective of the size and depth of the mines. This panorama photo includes some huge ore trucks, and a “huger” excavator. Can you find them?

The first stop along the trolley ride was the mine view overlook. This portion of the mine is being reclaimed by nature.

After lunch., we made it to the Minnesota Discovery Center. First, we took the trolley ride around the Center. The two conductors described the history and details of the surrounding mining and related cultures. Part way through the trolley ride, we stopped at another station for a thirty-minute stop. Near there we found period housing, more mining equipment, and an opportunity to stretch our legs. The trolley ride continues past an overlook of the mine, then back to the station at the Center’s headquarters.

This house is an authentic miner’s home. They were built without basements. This allowed the mining company to move the house(s) anytime the mining activity required it. The description of the house described occurrences of miners coming out of the mine and having to find where their house went! Built in 1905, and occupied until 1935, the mining company charged $5 to $10 per month rent. At one time, this house had thirteen residents!

For a short ride, we packed in a lot of activities on the History and Heritage Tour. So much to see, it deserves another visit to see more of it. We’ll be back. We’ll have to.