AURORA — A “former somewhat dilapidated garage’’ at Aurora City Hall is now home to a traveling exhibit that displays the rich history of the Erie Mining Company, according to Aurora Mayor Doug Gregor.

The area that previously housed local squad cars and a 1939 fire engine was renovated from top to bottom through a community effort and is now a place that highlights Erie building the largest taconite processing facility in the world north of Aurora from 1954-57.

It was a “pivotal moment in the transition of iron ore,’’ Gregor said. “It’s a great honor to the city’’ to be able to host the exhibit in Aurora because it will be “educating generations.’’

The new space for the traveling exhibit was recently commemorated, while the book “Taconite: New Life for Minnesota’s Iron Range — The History of Erie Mining Company’’ was also recognized.

At the same event, The Mary Lee Spence Documentary Book Award that was given by the Mining History Association earlier this year for “Taconite: New Life for Minnesota’s Iron Range — The History of Erie Mining Company’’ (published in 2019) was also recognized.


The Erie Mining History Project Team and the St. Louis County Historical Society were recognized late last month in Aurora with The Beselme-Orrell Heritage Award, which recognizes outstanding achievements in the understanding and appreciation of mining heritage.

The Mining History Association handed out the award for the traveling exhibit “The Plan, The People, The Promise and Perspectives: The History of the Erie Mining Company.

The exhibit is a full-scale, eight-panel museum display designed by Gary Lundstrom of Great Lake Design, which is now on display at the Aurora City Hall.

The Mining Heritage Award is “quite well deserved in my opinion,’’ said Al Hodnik, former Aurora mayor.

But why was the space at City Hall chosen and why was it done now?

Hodnik said the goal

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was not to have all of Erie’s history housed in Duluth. Erie’s history is significant because it took $2 billion in 1953 capital to build Erie. “It was very exciting times’’ when the plant was being built. Erie also left a lasting legacy. For example, without Erie Mining Company there would be no hospital in Aurora, he added.

“This always occurred to me this would be a decent spot.’’

The City Hall location highlights the display, while video monitors are also mounted on a brass pole for viewing presentations on mining, Erie, Aurora and more. The videos can be watched individually or rotated 180 degrees to present to a whole group. Hodnik added the brass pole is a nod to what used to be the Fire Hall.

On the room’s back wall, pictures capturing the evolution of mining will soon be put in place to further improve the entire experience.

Addressing the crowd gathered for the event, Hodnik was proud to say the goal had been met after about 18 months of work. “Mission accomplished.’’


Regarding the Documentary Book Award, the Erie Mining History Project Team was formed in 2014 to write and

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publish a book documenting the development of Erie Mining Company in Hoyt Lakes. The team published the book “Taconite: New Life for Minnesota’s Iron Range, The History of Erie Mining Company’’ in 2019.

The MHA recognized the hard copy history book, which includes more than 300 full-color pages with over 400 images, diagrams, and vivid text documenting the early mining history of the Minnesota Iron Range and the pioneering research developed to create an economically feasible method of mining and processing of taconite after the depletion of natural iron ore. The book is available from the SLC Historical Society for $45, including tax and shipping. Proceeds from the sale fund scholarships for area students, with the first endowed scholarship award presented to Abigail Stoddard last June.

Getting The Mary Lee Spence Documentary Book Award was “very meaningful to the people working on this project for more than six years,’’ said St. Louis County Historical Society President Ronald Hein, who led the book project, which was conceived nearly eight years ago.

“Erie Mining Company had a tradition of Christmas parties,’’ according to Hein, who ultimately asked those in attendance if there was interest in documenting the history of Erie Mining Company. The answer was a resounding yes.

“That was the inception of the book,’’ Hein said, which was put together so EMC’s history would not be forgotten or lost. “I was determined that was not going to happen.’’

Publishing the book, which included 150 oral history interviews, was no easy task. Other portions of the project included putting together the traveling exhibit and creating the endowed scholarship.

Once the book was complete in November of 2019, 5,000 copies were printed. A total of 1,500 copies were also sent to schools and colleges.

“This kind of effort is just so important’’ to the preservation of mining history, St. Louis County Historical Society Executive Director JoAnne Coombe said. She also noted it is the first time the same project has won both awards (which came with a $1,000 check from the Historical Society).

“This was fantastic. We knew that what we were trying to do is create something that people would look at years and years from now and see that as kind of an icon both from a standpoint of the book and the exhibit,’’ Hein said. “To win both awards from the same organization, a very, very prestigious organization, is just phenomenal.’’


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