Basketball stars Kevin McHale, a Hall of Famer, and Dick Garmaker, an All-America and four-time NBA All-Star, played in the Hibbing Memorial Building Arena. So did hockey stars Pat Micheletti, Mike Polich and Gary Gambucci. Photos of all those celebrated Hibbing high schoolers hang in the lobby of their hometown arena. This Iron Range town is also proud of food magnate Jeno Paulucci, wine entrepreneur Robert Mondavi, politician Gus Hall, baseball home run king Roger Maris, architect John Sheehy and dentist-turned-governor Rudy Perpich, among others.
But in the basement of the arena building, a photo and plaque commemorate another Hibbing resident who overshadows them all. Robert Zimmerman sang in the building’s Little Theater with a fledgling rock trio known as the Golden Chords at the Winter Frolic Talent Contest in February 1958. He’s better known as Bob Dylan.
For the past 24 years, music fans from all over the world have flocked to Hibbing for Dylan Days, which usually coincides with the music icon’s May 24 birthday. Due to financial constraints, the festival was not staged this year. (There is a Duluth Dylan Fest, however, because he was born there; it takes place this weekend.) Nonetheless, there are plenty of things to see in Hibbing — and they’re not just Dylan-related.
Hibbing High School is a jewel of architecture and art. It was built in the early 1920s at a cost just under $4 million (it included its own power plant), financed by the iron mining companies. There are marble pillars and stairs, gold doorknobs, plaster friezes and busts made in Italy. The 1,800-seat auditorium features a Broadway-sized stage, chandeliers of European cut glass, stained-glass boxes for the fire extinguishers, a massive Barton pipe organ and the piano Bobby Zimmerman played so loudly that the principal pulled the curtain on the wannabe rocker at a high school event.
A New York Times report on the school once featured the headline “a castle in the wilderness.” In the immaculate building, a mini-museum displays the 1959 yearbook opened to Dylan’s, er, Zimmerman’s photo.
Other Hibbing sites worth visiting include the aforementioned arena (though a staffer might be required to unlock the door to the basement Little Theater where Dylan played), and from May 15 to Sept. 15, the Greyhound Bus Museum and the iron mines.
In 1914, Andy Anderson and Carl Wickman started a “bus line” to transport iron miners from Hibbing to nearby Alice, which was known for its saloons. Four years later, the company owned 18 buses. Anderson’s original Hupmobile bus and 13 other historic buses from the 1920s through the ’60s are on display at the Greyhound Bus Museum.
Since 1895, more than 800 million gross tons of iron ore have been shipped from the mine. At peak production in the 1940s, as much as a quarter of the iron ore mined in the United States came from the Hull Rust Mine in Hibbing. Two mines — symbols of why this town of immigrants with 30 nationalities prospered for much of the 1900s — are still active and can be viewed (www.ironrange.org/explore/hibbing).
If you need a Dylan fix, there is the modest family home at 2425 7th Av. E. It’s not open to the public, but take your photo under the street sign that declares this as Bob Dylan Drive.
Venture downtown and you’ll find places that, in former incarnations, played a role in Dylan’s younger days. The Androy Hotel, now a home for senior citizens, was the site of Bobby’s bar mitzvah party. Ohana Massage now occupies the storefront where Dylan took guitar lessons at Braman Music. The now-defunct Hong Kong restaurant is the building where Bob and the Golden Chords performed when the joint was called Collier’s BBQ. Behind that, Bob’s father, Abe Zimmerman, ran a store with his brother, Micka Furniture and Electric; it was next to Hibbing Bowling Center (still open), where Bob’s team was the Gutter Boys.
Though Hibbing isn’t a ghost town, you can find the ghosts of Dylan all over the place.