Preservation Magazine, Summer 2015

Travel Itinerary: Marquette, Michigan

Nuggets of mining history meet natural wonders in the Upper Midwest.

  • By: Katherine Flynn
Itinerary Marquette Landscape

photo by: Aaron Peterson

Marquette, Michigan, is the perfect small-town summer getaway.

While Michigan’s Upper Peninsula can receive hundreds of inches of snowfall in the icy winter months, the region dazzles in the summer. Mild temperatures and constant lake breezes complement architectural charm, rendered in native sandstone and built during the region’s 19th-century iron and copper mining booms.

Marquette is the area’s largest city, established on the shores of Lake Superior and named for the French missionary Father Jacques Marquette, who explored the lakeshore in the 1660s. Traces of the heydays of mining concerns—such as the Jackson Mining Company and the Marquette Iron Company—wait around every corner, from the 1904 Beaux Arts–style Peter White Public Library downtown to the two stately ore docks (one of which is still operational) in Marquette Harbor.

Despite its relatively small population of around 21,000, Marquette boasts a symphony orchestra, a choral society, four museums, six area lighthouses, and countless hiking, biking, and water sports opportunities in the summer months. Hike to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain for an awe-inspiring view of Lake Superior’s rocky coastline, or take a swim at McCarty’s Cove beach. If culture is more your speed, check out the annual Hiawatha Traditional Music Festival, held every July.

Preservation collected recommendations from three Marquette experts: Kaye Hiebel, executive director of the Marquette Regional History Center; Russell Magnaghi, professor emeritus of history and university historian at Northern Michigan University; and Anjila Holland, associate general manager of Ore Dock Brewing Company.

Marquette Swimmers

photo by: Aaron Peterson

Black Rocks is a common cliff-jumping area.

Anjila Holland
Associate general manager, Ore Dock Brewing Company

EAT: One of the most popular places is the Lagniappe, a Cajun/Creole/New Orleans-style restaurant in a 1914 building. It’s located on Washington Street, and they have consistent servers, a really nice bar, and really good cocktails. It’s right next door to the historic Delft Theater.

STAY: Tourist Park is open May to October, and it’s located right on the bike path. It’s a family-friendly campground on the Dead River Basin. You can swim there, and then ride your bike into town. In the winter it shuts down and turns into an off-leash dog park.

DO: Presque Isle Park, which is located at the northeast side of the city, used to be an island thousands of years ago but is now connected to the mainland by a tombolo, which is a piece of sand and sedimentation that develops over time. Black Rocks is a common cliff-jumping area right into Lake Superior.

Marquette Lighthouse

photo by: Aaron Peterson

Marquette can recieve hundreds of inches of snow in the winter, but the summer months are among the most beautiful in the U.S.

Russell Magnaghi
History professor, Northern Michigan University

EAT: The Vierling is an old-time bar, housed in a 132-year-old building. It’s the premier white fish restaurant in Marquette and around the Upper Peninsula. They make their own beer there, and it’s very, very charming. [Owners] Kristi and Terry Doyle put it back to the way it was years ago. Elizabeth’s Chophouse features the [1886] building’s original brick walls, and [as weather permits] they open a beautiful terrace that overlooks the lake.

STAY: People enjoy going up to Big Bay, about 35 miles up the peninsula, and getting away. The Big Bay Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast is located in a still-operational 1896 lighthouse. The Thunder Bay Inn is the hotel where the 1959 courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder was partially filmed.

DO: The Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Neguanee is a well-done museum that explains the whole development of the iron ore industry. The Beaumier Upper Peninsula Heritage Center on Northern Michigan University’s campus focuses on [the area’s Finnish] history and has continuous visiting exhibits, and the Peter White Public Library has done a great job connecting with the community and the people by hosting art exhibits and workshops.

Kaye Hiebel
Executive director, Marquette Regional History Center

EAT: Start your day with great coffee and huge homemade muffins at Babycakes Muffin Company. The building dates to around 1880, and it was part of a pharmacy originally. Donckers has been operating in the same facility right downtown since 1914, and they make incredible homemade sandwiches and handmade candy. It has a wonderful old-fashioned feeling to it.

STAY: The Landmark Inn [a Historic Hotel of America] has rooms named after notable people with a connection to our history, and they’re also decorated with that theme, featuring antiques and reproductions. [The inn] opened in 1930 and is located right across from the Peter White Public Library downtown.

DO: Mattson Lower Harbor Park serves as festival central for Art on the Rocks, one of the oldest outdoor art festivals in Upper Michigan. Take a walking tour of the historic district and the downtown; the History Center has a really nice brochure that you can take with you. We also offer bus tours of the city of Marquette with live character interpretations of some of the interesting people who have lived here.

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Visit six other places named after French missionary Father Jacques Marquette.

Katherine Flynn is a former assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores, and uncovering the stories behind historic places.


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