old61 Historic U.S. 61: Old Hwy 61 and Thompson Hill Road

Old Hwy 61 and Thompson Hill Road

Located: Along I-35 between the County Road 61 Exit and the Boundary Avenue Exit just west of the city of Duluth, in Midway Township and City of Proctor, St. Louis County.

Historic Context: Early 1920's concrete highway, constructed by the Department of Highways.

Length: 3.1 miles overall, in four segments.

Constructed: 1922-1923

Bypassed: 1948/1949, by construction of a new four-lane divided highway along the right-of-way of I-35.

Also Part Of:

Status: Surviving sections repaved, but mostly intact.

Access: North service drive from the County Road 61, Midway Road, or Boundary Avenue exits. South service drive from the Midway Road or Boundary Avenue exits (latter via Skyline Parkway).

More U.S. 61 Articles

North >> Old Thompson Hill Overlook

South >> Old Hwy 61 at the Carlton/St. Louis County Line

A total of four sections of the original paved highway between the Twin Cities and Duluth survive along either side of I-35 just west of the Duluth area on top of Thompson Hill. All have been incorporated into the current service drives, labeled as "Old Hwy 61" on the north side, and as "Thompson Hill Road" on the south side of the interstate.

The old highway was completed in 1923 by the Minnesota Highway Department as part of State Route 1, and originally paved with 18 feet of concrete. It remained in use until 1948/49, when a new four-lane divided highway was constructed to replace it. Four sections of the original highway survived, and were retained as local roads or service drives. All four were accessible directly from the highway until the mid 1970's, when work began to upgrade it into I-35. The surviving sections were then incorporated into extended service drives.

Since then, the roads have been repaved and widened, but still retain a bit of their historic feel. You can generally tell you're on the old highway when the road suddenly veers away from I-35 (with the exception of the eastern-most segment on the south side, which closely parallels the freeway).

The north service drive, aka "Old Hwy 61", is now marked as parts of St. Louis County Roads 73 and 45 and contains the majority of the old alignment. The south service drive is now marked as County Road 14 and contains the two shortest segments.


Map Key:

  • Blue = Repaved/rebuilt road on original alignment
  • Orange = Road obliterated

Photos - photos taken in November, 2009.

Driving eastbound on County Road 14, just east of Midway Road. The beginning of the second segment is just ahead where the road is separated from I-35 by a grove of trees.

Driving east on County Road 14. The beginning of segment four is just ahead at the grove of trees. This segment ends a short distance past the crest of the hill ahead where the road suddenly curves to the right towards Skyline Parkway.

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