Marquette’s downtown ‘Hotel Row’
MARQUETTE — Anyone who’s ever been in Marquette is familiar with the Janzen House. The Janzen, for a long time, was a traveler’s hotel. In fact, it was one of four such buildings that once sat on the 100 west block of Spring Street, a block that for a span of over sixty years was home to Marquette’s “Hotel Row.”
Why that particular block of Spring Street? Well, the hotels were located there because of their proximity to the Main Street train station. Until 1948, when that train station closed and a new passenger terminal was opened on Fifth Street, visitors and business people could just hop off the train, walk a few feet to the establishment of their choice, and check in.
The first of the hotels, built right after the station itself, was the The Merchants Hotel. Constructed by Karl Rohl on the corner of Third and Spring, the Merchants was a three story wooden structure. When it first opened you could get a room at the Merchants for $5 a week. If you wanted to bump that up to ten dollars a week, they’d feed you meals, as well. Or course, there was one caveat to that great price.
You had to be a man to be a guest at the Merchants Hotel. At least when they first opened, they wouldn’t allow women to check in.
The hotel hung on for a few years after the train station moved but ended up closing in the 1950s. It was replaced by a new A&P Store, a building that still stands as the home of the Marquette Regional History Center.
Right next to the Merchants was the Windsor Hotel, which sat it what is now the site of a city parking lot. Opened by Peter Kremer in 1891, it changed its name to the Central House three years later. The smallest of the Spring Street hotels, the Windsor stood out from the others by having an in-house saloon and by having a horse barn built in back. It was, mostly likely, downtown Marquette’s first parking garage.
The Windsor closed in 1915.
On the other side of the street sat two hotels that were almost mirror images of each other, the Janzen and the Brunswick. The two hotels were built around the same time, in the late 1880s, and even shared a small courtyard. The Brunswick was a slightly bigger facility, and had what one newspaper article of the time called “one of the finest dining rooms in all the city.” Like the Merchants Hotel, the Brunswick suffered after the closing of the downtown train station in 1948. It did hang on for another twenty or so years, eventually becoming a long-term hotel, where retired workers and individuals without other housing would live. After catching fire a few times, the structure was eventually torn down in the late 1960s. It was replaced by law offices and another parking lot.
The one ex-hotel that’s still standing on Spring Street is the Janzen. Like the others, once the train station moved it too changed its clientele. Like the Brunswick, it became more of a home for retirees and transients. It did manage to host one final famous visitor, though, as in the late 1960s a high ranking government official from Czechoslovakia came to NMU to speak on the superiority of the Communist system. Through a mix up, he was booked at the then-seedy Janzen, a stay that probably did nothing to change his mind about the excesses and failures of the capitalist system.
A public fundraising campaign in the early 1980s brought much-needed capital to repair the then crumbling structure. Since then, the Janzen has been used as transitional housing for individuals looking to re-enter society. One of the oldest remaining buildings on that block, it stands as the final testament to what was once Marquette’s “Hotel Row.”