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Robert Blemhuber: Agriculturist and developer

Robert Blemhuber is pictured. Blemhuber, who promoted agriculture, also promoted the growth and development of tourism in the U.P. He passed away in 1950 at the age of 88. A fitting tribute to his contributions to the Marquette community was to name a street after him. (Photo courtesy of the Marquette Regional History Center)

MARQUETTE — This past winter the dome at Northern Michigan University was unavailable to community walkers due to the pandemic. Walking outside (for a Yooper) was not that bad with the mostly milder weather. But, I’ve subscribed to an old Norwegian philosophy: There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices.

Lucky for me, one of my good friends is Rosemary Michelin, retired research librarian from the Marquette Regional History Center. As we walked through neighborhoods on the east side, she would point out information on historic buildings and homes. “Did you know this was once a hospital?” or “This is where Teddy Roosevelt stayed with George Shiras.” I sure learned a lot.

This summer, the Marquette Regional History Center will replace its popular bus tours with walking tours due to COVID-19. It will offer the public the opportunity to learn about Marquette’s historic past in a healthy outside, limited group size format.

So as you walk past 150 W. Ridge Street, you might notice a side entrance on Third Street that almost looks like a small store front. That’s because it was an outlet for Robert Blemhuber’s agricultural business. Robert’s father, a German immigrant, had come to Marquette in 1859. In 1866, Henry purchased 15 acres just west of the Marquette city limits in the vicinity of modern Grove Street. Robert’s father went on to purchase 400 acres of land, clearing 200 acres for cultivation.

Partnering with his father in 1883, Robert first focused on agricultural diversity, market gardening and fruit trees. Moving away from the philosophy that only potatoes and peas could grow in this area, his farm started producing tomatoes, sweet corn and crops of apples, apricots, peaches, pears, plums, grapes, mulberries, currants, raspberries, strawberries and cherries. These crops were sold in Ishpeming, Negaunee, Gwinn, and of course Marquette stores.

Robert Blemhuber was yielding almost $1,000 per acre. He exhibited a peach with a 10.5 inch circumference at the 1911 Land Show in Chicago. From his outlet at 150 W. Ridge Street, he would sell seed, fruit seedlings, fertilizer, and give instructions on how to graft trees.

In 1888, Blemhuber platted 40 acres in south Marquette which developed as the Blemhuber addition. His investments in real estate continued with purchases of a number of lots in both the Burt Additions 1 & 2.

Robert Blemhuber promoted agriculture but he also promoted the growth and development of tourism in the U.P. He promoted the area as a healthy vacation destination. He even had cottages built out on Lakewood Lane called Hiawatha Shores.

Blemhuber was an active member of the Marquette Chamber of Commerce for nearly fifty years. He was a founding member of the Upper Peninsula Development Bureau.

Robert passed away in 1950 at the age of 88, and a fitting tribute to his contributions to the Marquette community was to name a street after him.

Join us as we walk through history in our community on the MRHC’s Historic Marquette Walking Tours with eight tour dates to choose from: July 13, 20, & 27 at 1:00 p.m., July 14 & 28 at 6:00, August 3 &10 at 1:00 p.m. and August 11 at 6:00 p.m. We’ll take advantage of being outdoors in our vibrant downtown.

This tour route will include multiple stops downtown and at the lake front. Start the walk with our tour guide at the History Center; you will hear many stories and features, you may just meet a historical character too!

Expect to walk for 90 minutes. Limited group sizes, $15 per person, buy your tickets ahead of time to reserve your tour via phone or website.

Rain/cancellation policy given upon purchase.

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