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Other side of the creek

South Marquette Walking Tour shares history

Jim Koski, historical storyteller with the Marquette Regional History Center, addresses attendees of the South Marquette Walking Tour Wednesday at the top of Genesee Street. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

MARQUETTE — The South Marquette area is defined by its history, and on Wednesday evening over 150 people gathered to learn more about Marquette’s first neighborhood.

The South Marquette Walking Tour hosted by the Marquette Regional History Center outlined notable individuals from South Marquette and well-known buildings and locations.

“South Marquette is actually a very unique neighborhood in Marquette in that it was the first big neighborhood in the city,” said Jim Koski, a historical storyteller with the MRHC who led the tour. “But it’s not where all the rich and famous people lived, it’s where the immigrants who built Marquette settled, it’s where the sandstone quarry workers, where the construction workers, where the slaughterhouse workers were. It’s part of the story of Marquette that doesn’t get told a lot, so we figured we would tell that story.”

Koski introduced the tour with his definition of South Marquette, which is everything south of the bypass or the old Whetstone Creek. He said the neighborhood is the oldest and largest residential section and also the first ward and precinct of Marquette.

“It was physically separated from the rest of the city by the old Whetstone Creek where the (U.S. 41) bypass now sits, so it kind of developed its own culture and its own way of life,” he said. “Then as the bypass was built and Front Street and the other streets were put through, it became a part of Marquette. It became a big neighborhood in a city of big neighborhoods. But there’s still part of the charm and a part of the separatists’ ethos, if you will, that South Marquette still has.”

Pictured is the Hotel Superior built in 1891 for $200,000, which is equivalent to $2.5 million today. the hotel had 27 acres of gardens and farms and its own house orchestra. (Photo courtesy of the Marquette Regional History Center)

The tour began with the mention of some notable individuals and a stroll down Craig Street to Marquette’s oldest existing building, the John Burt House.

Burt was a business owner and his father William Austin Burt was one of the discoverers of iron ore in the area. Constructed in 1858, the house is made with broken rock from the stone quarry.

Koski said most of the individuals who made up the South Marquette neighborhood were immigrants. A family’s status was told by the location of their house — is it on a hill or farther down Division Street?

The residents weren’t the wealthiest and often looked at the rich with suspect, Koski said. This contributed to the divide of South Marquette from the rest of the city.

Though separate, the area had a strong sense of community among its members. It was the sort of neighborhood where you could get a glass of water from any house if you were thirsty. It was also the neighborhood where if you got in trouble as a kid, everyone would know about it, he added.

Jim Koski, historical storyteller with the Marquette Regional History Center, points out a notable landmark during the South Marquette Walking Tour Wednesday evening. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

The tour continued to Hurley Field, which was the social center of the area in its day. But baseball wasn’t played at the field, only softball. Game crowds were oftentimes so loud they could be heard from downtown, he said.

Just a few houses down from the field lived Mrs. Beaudry, the first licensed female barber in Michigan. According to Koski, she would charge 5 cents a cut for anyone in the neighborhood.

The former location of the Hotel Superior, near the end of Jackson Street, was also mentioned during the tour. The grand building was constructed in 1891 for $200,000, which is equivalent to $5.5 million today and designed by the same architect responsible for the State Capitol building. The hotel had 27 acres of gardens and farms and its own house orchestra. The hotel was torn down in 1929. Koski said if you look closely, you can still spot the foundation of the building in the field.

Koski also addressed the buildings of South Marquette that now serve different purposes such as Pomp’s Tires, which used to be the Hampton Street School; Mares-Z-Doats, formerly the Dorais/Raish Livery & Slaughterhouse; and The Compound, which, was Fletcher’s Market.

The tour ended with a trip to the old quarry. The Marquette Quarry was opened around 1870, after the fire of 1868, and extracted sandstone, which was used as the foundation of most buildings in the city. The sandstone was shipped all over the U.S. for use in construction, but mainly to Chicago and New York. When the quarry closed, the Orianna Creek began to fill it with water. It was again purchased, closed and drained in the 1930s only to refill and become the local swimming spot.

Today, the quarry is surrounded by condos and private property, but it was once where most Marquette kids learned to swim, Koski said.

It’s these little stories that make Marquette what it is, he added. There is history around the city to be discovered that one won’t find just from walking the town or attending school in the area, he said. While many are familiar with South Marquette, Koski hopes the tour showed how unique the area is.

“A lot of people who live in Marquette maybe don’t realize why it became the city it has become,” Koski said. “It has undergone such an amazing transformation in the 170 years of its history from an old dock town, to an old factory town, now to a city that thrives on arts and medicine and education. But if you know where to look and you know the stories to tell, you can still find out the building blocks that made Marquette the city that it is today.”

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is tcarey@miningjournal.net.