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Marquette Maritime Museum

Marquette Maritime Museum celebrates Great Lakes’ legacy

Marquette Lighthouse on Lake Superior at Marquette, Michigan. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Marquette Lighthouse on Lake Superior at Marquette, Michigan. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


ISHPEMING, Mich. (AP) – While waterways such as the Great Lakes are viewed by modern society as a source of recreation and transportation, it is easy to forget that local history was forged, in large part, by the water that surrounds us.

The Marquette Maritime Museum has chronicled and celebrated life on the Great Lakes for well over a century, The Mining Journal reported. The crown jewel of its collection is, without a doubt, the 150-year-old Marquette Harbor Lighthouse.

Museum board member Carolyn Northey said the museum moved into what was the city of Marquette’s Water Works building in 1982. Over the decades the museum has built a collection of artifacts, including a unique assembly of lighthouse lenses, all procured from lighthouses within a 100-mile radius of the museum.

“I challenge anyone to find a better collection of lenses anywhere on the Great Lakes. Having a 2nd, 3rd, 3 1/2 and 4th order ‘classical’ Fresnel lenses in the same exhibit hall concurrently is unheard of,” Northey said.

The museum also boasts an enclosed flotation device called a life cart that could transport four to five people stacked on top of one another from a shipwreck until they could get to a rescue ship.

Other exhibits include the Edmund Fitzgerald shipwreck, the Henry B. Smith shipwreck and displays about the Stannard Rock Lighthouse, the Big Bay Point Lighthouse and the McClintock Annex, commemorating the World War II battle of Leyte Gulf involving two submarines, the USS Darter and the USS Dace.

The battle, considered the largest in naval history, marked a pivotal point in the defeat of the Japanese.
Museum visitors can peer through an authentic 40-foot-tall WWII submarine periscope, named for the Marquette native Navy Capt. David McClintock who commanded the Darter during the battle.

Children who come to the museum can take part in a treasure trove of activities including the opportunity to dress up as a pirate, or take part in a scavenger hunt just to name two.

Perhaps the biggest treasure for any MMM visitor is the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse. Since the recorded population of the Upper Peninsula, lighthouses have been a symbol of the respect mariners have for the Great Lakes.

The original Marquette Harbor Lighthouse was built in 1853, but the existing structure was built in 1866 with a second floor added in the early 1900s.

The structure is pivotal in U.P. history as it was critical to the Great Lakes iron ore trade. Marquette was the premier shipping port for iron ore until the 1890s, and the lighthouse was vital for safe passage in and out of the harbor.

The lighthouse is set high on the Lake Superior skyline built into a bed of rock.

After a visitor walks up the 50 steps to the lighthouse, one of the first places inside the structure the guided tour stops is the winch room.

Seasonal museum manager Ryan Dubay said before becoming the first electrically lit lighthouses on the Great Lakes in 1928, the lamp for the lighthouse was fueled by oil that had to be refilled regularly. Because of the lighthouse’s remote location up on a rock, an alternative to hand-carrying the oil containers had to be devised, thus a cart on a track would bring the oil to a trap door under the lighthouse where it would be winched into the building.

“Imagine carrying anything up all those stairs,” Dubay said. “This way they could bring in as much oil as they needed and even put several containers on reserve.”

The tour includes the lightkeepers’ living quarters, the breathtaking view from the lighthouse windows and the catwalk.

In its 150 years, the lighthouse has seen its share of hope and tragedy. Dubay said the structure is haunted and he sometimes tells ghost stories on the evening tours.

“Early in the 1900s, a little girl died here. Her ghost haunts this place,” Dubay said.

The museum is partnering with the Marquette Board of Light and Power to host a party to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse from 1 to 4 p.m. July 30 on the grounds of the lighthouse.

Northey said the date will also mark the lighthouse changing ownership, with the U.S. Coast Guard officially signing the landmark over to the city of Marquette. The museum has been leasing the lighthouse from the Coast Guard as well as 2.5 acres of land surrounding it since 2002.

The celebration will include free lighthouse tours, tours of the Coast Guard Station, firing of the museum’s Lyle gun, a special raffle and a Marquette memorabilia auction.

Visitors to the MMM can choose to self-tour the museum, a guided tour of the lighthouse, or both.
The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission to the museum is $3 for children under 12 and $6 for adults; lighthouse tours are $3 for children under 12 or $6 for adults.

Visitors can get admission to the museum combined with a lighthouse tour at $5 for children 12 and under and $10 for adults. Children 12 and under cost $3 for museum or lighthouse, or $5 for both.

By LISA BOWERS, The Mining Journal

Information from: The Mining Journal,

Copyright 2016 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-07-21-16 1253GMT

Marquette Maritime Museum