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Archive for the month “February, 2020”

Marquette, Michigan: Experience the Warmth!

February 29, 2020

Today is Leap Day, February 29th, a day which comes only once every four years. I remember a former colleague of mine insisting that Leap Day should be a company holiday — if not a national holiday. “It’s an extra day, people! Why do you want to work?” Hard to argue with that logic.

So, for such a rare day I offer a glimpse of the fine city of Marquette, Michigan, where the street signs invite you to Experience the Warmth beneath 10 inches of accumulated snow! (Ten inches is the statistical average of constant snow depth in Marquette during February.) It’s a nice town, despite the irony. Enjoy!

Marquette Yacht Club with frozen Lake Superior in the background

Marquette, Michigan (population 22,000 or so) is a small city on the shores of Lake Superior. Established around iron ore mining in the mid-1800s, Marquette was the largest iron boomtown in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (the “U.P”) and it’s still the largest town in the U.P. today. 7.9 million gross tons of ore passed through Marquette’s Presque Isle Harbor in 2005.

Lower Harbor Ore Dock, Marquette, Michigan

Despite the gritty image of iron ore mining, Marquette’s commercial district boasts some grand old buildings along its main street (Washington Street) with an equally grand view over a bluff down to the shores of the lake. 

Marquette City Hall

The old Savings Bank building (photo below) was built in 1891 and is still used for commercial office space. Because the building rises above a cliff leading down to the lakeshore, the front side has five floors while the rear has seven. I can only imagine the views from a corner office space. Wikipedia has an entry and more photos here.

Marquette’s Savings Bank building. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Even in winter, downtown Marquette remains a vibrant place full of cozy restaurants, bars, and hotels.

Marquette, Michigan: view looking north along Front Street from Main toward Washington

What could warm your stomach better than the Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery? It’s there on the right in the photo below, occupying an old movie theatre.

Marquette, Michigan along Washington Street
Currently a Wells Fargo branch. Notice the front floor-to-ceiling windows.

Many of the buildings in old Marquette were constructed using attractive Jacobsville red sandstone and often have iron cupola domes. This includes the Marquette County Courthouse.  This attractive building sits atop a little rise overlooking both the harbor and a few blocks of the downtown district.  They’ve added an annex and a jail behind the original structure. More here.

Marquette County Courthouse
Marquette County Courthouse including annex and jail
Marquette County Courthouse
View of downtown Marquette from the courthouse. The lower harbor ore dock and Lake Superior are in the background.
Marquette County in the state of Michigan

People have come to Marquette on this day to watch the sled dog races.  I didn’t catch all the details but it seems to be a big and well-organized event since they have officials and official volunteers.  I walked down to the finish line where Starbucks was giving away free cups of coffee to the humans.  Both dogs and people seemed to be having a good time.

Sled dog sled (with musher?)
Sled dogs after the race
The Finish Line

The backdrop to the festivities:

Frozen Lake Superior at Marquette, Michigan, in February 2009

Need a warm-up after the race? Go for a beer at L’Attitude Bistro (now the Iron Bay Tap Room).

This little place on Marquette’s frozen waterfront occupies the basement of a refurbished old downtown building.  The inside walls are old brick and the hallways back to the kitchen and restrooms are like a labyrinth of caverns.  The urban tourist crowd loves this place and many of the tables are filled with skiers and old hippies with hoop earrings and long, gray ponytail manes. 

Seriously, Marquette is a great town. In 2012 it was named among the 10 best places to retire in the United States. (Wikipedia entry here)

Enjoy the Warmth!

All photos by the author and were taken in February 2009.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

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