We went from manufacturing machines that could lift 500 tons to wood-fired flavor that lifts the soul.
A three-year restoration project has transformed a 36,000 square foot factory into a gathering place for family and friends, as a premier restaurant, bar and event center in northern Minnesota.
Clyde is a passion project of Alex Giuliani to preserve a cornerstone of Duluth's golden industrial age. This is apparent from the historical signs and original objects, including a 15-ton overhead crane, which remind us of the timelessness that is authentically Clyde.
Established in 1889, the original Clyde Iron Works was a steel foundry and manufacturer of heavy machinery such as the whirley crane, skidders, yarders, hoists and derricks used in the booming logging industry. Clyde was once instrumental in completing well-known projects such as the Panama Canal, the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge. Although Clyde’s manufacturing days are a memory, our presence honors the American worker of yesterday and today.
Northwestern Manufacturing, what would become Clyde Iron Works in 1901, was founded on October 21, 1889. It was one of many heavy industrial fabricators in Duluth, which was a factory town, a working-man’s town, a port city. There was a lot of demand for hoists, and this company aimed to specialize.
One of the first products was the 1901 McGiffert Log Loader, a steam-powered, self-propelled hoist capable of moving 350,000 board feet daily. The success of the loader drove the construction of their first dedicated building in 1907, and what followed was a long list of firsts, some of which are: First to use internal combustion engine for a hoist (1912); First to use a silent chain drive for a hoist (1922); First to build a welded steel crane (1925); First to build a crane capable of lifting in excess of 4,400 tons – almost 9 million pounds, or the weight of a large building (1985).
Like all major American factories, Clyde was called to duty for WWI and WWII. For each, the plant made hoists and derricks for the Army, many of which were used in Europe to replace destroyed port facilities. Wartime employment peaked around 500 men who worked around the clock.
The cranes left such an impression that, after the war, Duluth was called on by France to build even more units for their ports. Clyde was awarded the Army-Navy “E” for excellent war manufacturing service.
After World War II, employment dropped by half. Barium Steel acquired the company for $1.5 million and the design team continued to innovate to meet new challenges. In 1961, Clyde built the world’s largest portable hoist to pull the lines for a 4,200-foot long suspension bridge in New York, the Verrazano-Narrows.
Clyde changed hands three more times over the next decade, and there was even talk of it being relocated closer to the harbor so that its products could be loaded directly onto ships. Instead, $3 million was poured into the Duluth plant in 1976 in the form of retrofits and at least one new building.
Slowly, though, Clyde was dying – no cash injection could stave the foreign competition and slowing market for extremely high-capacity cranes. Still, orders came in, including one in 1978 for a 2,000 ton unit, the largest in the world at that time. Success was followed with bad news, though, as first 25, then 60, then 100 workers were laid off from the plant. In late 1984, the plant only employed 30, consisting of a design team and skeleton maintenance crew.
As a last act, Clyde produced a masterpiece: a crane capable of lifting 4,400 tons (“the weight of the new Radisson hotel” said the newspaper). Then, in 1986, Clyde Iron’s Duluth operation closed and moved to St. Paul, merging with the marine division of American Hoist & Derrick to become AmClyde.
The 10.5-acre Lincoln Park site was used for a number of purposes spanning multiple owners including making replacement parts for AmClyde’s custom-built cranes to being used as a build-to-print contract metal fabricator and machine shop.
The site was purchased by Duluthian, Alessandro Giuliani.
Clyde Park’s restaurant and entertainment venue opens.
Now called Clyde Iron Works Restaurant & Bar, the facility is owned and operated by Alessandro Giuliani as a premier restaurant, bar and event venue.