The Ore Docks of Marquette

While searching for a topic to write about, I sought inspiration in the photographs. I was most intrigued by the photos of Marquette from 1863, and by the photos of the ore dock and what it used to look like. Since I’m not allowed to do a blog post solely of photos, I researched a bit of ore dock history.


Construction of the ore dock in Lower Harbor, Marquette, 1931.

Marquette was founded in 1849 because companies like the Marquette Iron Company and the Jackson Mining Company drew workers from all over the world to work in the mines, and those workers needed a place to live. The iron from those mines proved valuable and useful, and is still a major economic contributor to  the community. In the beginning the mined iron stayed local as no one had figured out a good way to transport it yet. When the Soo Locks were built in 1855, iron companies suddenly had a way to export the ore to the rest of the world. The first dock ever built for the iron industry was built in Marquette in 1857. It looked different, and operated much differently than the one we are familiar with today. After the iron ore was transported to the dock by train, the ships were loaded by hand using wheelbarrows. Iron ore was and still is being turned into pellets for easy transportation, and as a way to increase quality of the iron. Marquette in total has had six ore docks, with three simultaneously operating in Lower Harbor at one point. The ore dock that can be seen there today was built in 1931, and was closed in 1971 due to poor market conditions. For information on Lower Harbor ore dock renovations, visit There is one dock that still ships iron ore from Marquette, located on Presque Isle. It was built in 1911, and ships nine to ten million tons of ore each year.


This railroad through Marquette’s downtown that was used to transport the iron ore. 

These photographs and many others can be viewed in the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives, located underneath the Lydia M. Olson Library on NMU’s campus.


Constructing the ore dock, 1931.


Marquette, 1863.


Marquette, n.d.

This post was written by Eliza Compton.



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