Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority turns restored structure over to city
MARQUETTE — Driving west into Marquette along U.S. 41, passers-by come across a stone structure that resembles an igloo on the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.
Were those curious aware at one time the kiln was used to burn wood into charcoal which fed blast furnaces that converted iron ore and limestone into pig iron during the late 19th century?
After the last of the 43 Carp River kilns collapsed in a heavy wet spring snowstorm in 2016, the historical sandstone structure has been resurrected and was officially turned over to the city of Marquette Monday during a ceremony.
Officials from city Manager Mike Angeli to Mayor Jenna Smith were among the crowd that gathered to see the newly completed kiln that the Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority has been working on for the past two years.
“So many people have come by here and talked about their grandfather or great-grandfather (who) worked at the kilns or worked at the mines,” IOHRA administrator Carol Fulsher said. “We(‘ve) hear(d) so much about (how) they wanted to see that kiln restored when it fell in 2016, so I think it means a lot to the community that knows the history of our mining and so many people used to see it on their way in and out of Marquette. But it was kind of down in a gully and they couldn’t really get to it, so I think having it here where it’s accessible really means a lot to our people.”
The original location of the kiln was in front of the Marquette Wastewater Treatment plant. But when the snow destroyed the kiln, the Marquette community began hinting at restoring the historical structure. On July 9, 2018, the city and IOHRA signed a memorandum of understanding that allowed the IOHRA to take the city-owned sandstones from the fallen kiln and use those original pieces to rebuild the kiln.
Former Director of Municipal Utilities Curt Goodman gathered the original Marquette sandstones and eventually the IOHRA raised nearly $100,000 from grantors, foundations, corporations and other organizations to help restore the kiln. The firm Sanders-Czapski was hired to design the structure and by October, Premeau Construction began the process of cobbling the kiln stones back together.
The entire project took nine months to complete with a few setbacks because of the pandemic. After finishing up in early June, the kiln is now fully refurbished to greet traffic coming in and out of Marquette.
“I think she’s beautiful. (We) still need to name her,” Fulsher said, chuckling that she doesn’t know how to name such a historical piece yet it looks “like a ship” and deserves a title. “… It’s a beautiful piece of architecture and a great piece of our history and it feels really good to have a project come to fruition.”
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, kilns played a major role in the region’s mining history. However, few of those kilns remain standing. So to resurrect something of such historical prominence was “quite idyllic,” Fulsher remarked.
Unlike its predecessor, the new kiln stands above ground. Most historic kilns were situated in gullies and some people may believe that it is larger in size. But it’s an exact replica; it’s just not concealed in a gully, she added.
“We’re just excited and again, we thank the city for trusting us with historic stones,” she said.
As you’re driving into Marquette from Harvey, the dome-like structure may no longer burn wood into charcoal and produce little baby pig irons, but it stands as a relic to mining days past.
Jackie Jahfetson can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is