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History mystery: outdoor fireplace and gondola cable car


November 6, 2020

Reader David Haugen admits he’s lived in Cloquet for only 15 years, so may have missed an era of general knowledge about some physical structures in the area that have puzzled him for some time. He recently submitted two photos for History Mystery.

One is a fireplace, without a structure around it, found in the woods just east of the playground at Hilltop Park in Cloquet. What gives?

The other is what Haugen refers to as a “gondola cable car” apparatus on the St. Louis River, just south of where Interstate 35 crosses it and off a trail east of Carlton County Highway 45. He’s heard various tales about the setup — a way to monitor the river by the U.S. Geological Survey, something Minnesota Power uses, or, and our fantastical favorite, as an emergency crossing of the river in case bridges were blown up during World War II.

Haugen says he’s never seen the gondola in use but he thinks the mechanics have been upgraded in the past decade. He said he’s seen the car in the middle of the river expanse or on the other side.

We decided to let readers have a crack at these items before we start calling entities that may be in the know. “They both are mysteries to me,” Haugen said. “Inquiring minds want to know.” Indeed. If you have information about the fireplace or the gondola, let us know immediately at [email protected] or call Pine Knot News reporter Mike Creger at 218-216-6292.

And if you have your own History Mystery to solve, please pass it along.


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