Superior, Wisconsin, reminds me of Berlin
It’s not apparent from these first two photos—our immediate impression of Superior looked more like Les Birds, above. This is how I remember this city—classic American old school bars, standing solo on dimly lit, empty streets. The last time I’d been to Superior was a late night trip across the high bridge from Duluth to hit the Anchor Bar, which neatly fits that description.
Superior reminded me of Berlin because it appears to be an off-the-beaten-path place to live, a place where rent is cheap because no one values the old unrenovated buildings. A place where interesting people—who want an affordable life rather than an address on the sanctioned list of creative cities—start to grow in numbers and form an interesting community.
Driving north on Tower Avenue, the Berlin similarities slowly revealed themselves as we moved backward in time towards the city’s old center and the waterfront. There are many buildings and areas in Superior that feel untouched by the decades between now and when they were built. No developer has gotten here yet to renovate these architectural gems and insert a high-paying chain into their storefronts. Instead, funny little shops and mom and pop businesses dominate. It has the texture and character that I associate with Berlin—and with an older, mostly lost America.
My caveat here is that the Berlin I refer to is arguably outdated in the sense that rents are not so cheap anymore, it is now at the top of the list of creative cities, and so many of the buildings and places that reminded me of what I saw in Superior are gone.
I’ve heard the question asked so many times as to where the next “Berlin” will be. I’m not sure that it will be Superior—although, hey, if Berlin can become an international destination despite its atrocious winters then why not Superior?
Do you live in Superior or know someone who does? I would love to hear from you in preparation for our next visit!