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This Tour is a Walking Tour.

Ely Minnesota Downtown Walking Tour

Created by Celia Domich on April 4th 2022, 8:47:44 pm.

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This tour provides a brief account of Ely's historic downtown area. In the past the buildings here contained boarding houses and grocery stores and taverns - more than one might expect in such a small community. But its history started earlier. Indian tribes occupied the Ely area for thousands of years. The Sioux, followed by the Chippewa, were the most recent native inhabitants. In 1884 an early prospector discovered what he thought was gold. The gold, however, turned out to be iron pyrite, commonly known as fool’s gold. Soon, after a brief and disappointing gold rush, the massive iron ore deposits were discovered, and Ely was born. The community, initially called Florence, was established in 1887 and renamed “Ely” on April 23, 1888. That same year, the Duluth and Iron Range Railroad reached Ely, allowing the mines to ship their ore, and supporting transportation into the fledgling village. The population in March 1888 was just 177 people. Twelve years later in 1900, the population was 3717. Ely was a boom town. And the early years were rough and ready, with rooming houses where the miners slept in shifts and saloons where brawls were commonplace. Billie Sunday, an early evangelist, said that the only difference between Ely and hell was that “Ely (had) a railroad into it.” As the town grew, new businesses were needed, families formed, and schools and churches were built. In 1930, Ely reached its peak population of 6151. The early settlers who built Ely are gone, but we honor their legacy by appreciating their buildings and their stories. Additionally, we value the business owners of today who have chosen to maintain these buildings as a reminder of Ely's amazing past. And we thank you, for participating in the tour and hope you find it enjoyable. For more information on Ely’s history, visit the Ely-Winton Historical Society housed in the college at the east end of town. Sincerely, the Ely Heritage Preservation Commission with support from the Ely Winton Historical Society.