The Gunflint Trail Historical Society is working to raise the funds necessary to complete repairs on the historic Gunflint Trail entrance signs in front of the Grand Marais Public Library.
In 1938, members of local Civilian Conservation Corps camps installed two signs – a Voyageur holding a canoe labeled “Gunflint Trail” and a bear driving a motorboat – at the gateway to the 57-mile long Gunflint Trail (Cook County Road 12) in downtown Grand Marais, MN at the request to the Gunflint Trail Association and the Grand Marais Commercial Club. Local business owners wanted to help ensure that area visitors didn’t miss the turn off U.S. Highway 61 onto the Gunflint Trail where numerous resorts and wilderness adventures awaited them.
In the 75 years that the signs have sat atop stonewalls at the base of Grand Marais’s 2nd Avenue West, the signs have become an iconic part of the Grand Marais landscape, even though the signs no longer mark the official entrance to the Gunflint Trail. They are landmarks that speak to the days when the Gunflint Trail was just beginning to develop itself as a major tourism destination in Minnesota, where tourists from the Twin Cities, Chicago, and the greater Midwest flocked to enjoy canoeing, fishing, hiking, and other outdoor recreational opportunities. The signs also remind area residents of the region’s rich history with the Civilian Conservation Corps. From 1933 – 1942, 16 different CCC camps worked in Cook County, helping to fight forest fires, develop hiking trails and canoe routes, and sustain the local economy during the Great Depression.
These signs are important to residents and visitors alike and over the years the signs have been captured in countless photographs and postcards. Recently the signs have fallen into considerable disrepair from age and neglect. Lettering on the Voyageur’s canoe that was once bright red is now completely faded to a very pale pink. Much of the paint on the bear sign has completely chipped off. The concrete stands for both signs also need repairs.
In summer 2012, the Gunflint Trail Historical Society (GTHS) Board of Trustees decided to take responsibility for repairing these 75-year-old signs. The Board determined that repairing the signs was cohesive with the Historical Society’s overall mission to preserve the history of the Gunflint Trail for future generations. The GTHS received permission from the Grand Marais City Council to arrange and oversee repairs last autumn. The sign repair must be completed soon to prevent the signs from becoming a total loss.
There are just 7 days left in the public fundraising effort of this project and the GTHS is only $275 shy of their fundraising goal. It’s easy to donate to this project through the GTHS’s GiveMN page. We appreciate your help restoring this important piece of Gunflint Trail, Grand Marais, and Cook County history!