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Why People Love Marquette, Michigan

Brian and his wife are honorary Yoopers, having lived in Marquette year-around from 2002 to 2006. They love going back to visit friends.

Marquette, Michigan is one of my favorite cities. I am not the only one, by far, to be enchanted by it. I have heard quite a few anecdotes about persons who visited Marquette and stayed or returned there to live – like a man who gave up a successful career as a company representative in northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana to instead eke out a living in Marquette as a freelance carpenter, or like a woman whose car broke down in Marquette and who stayed.

In good times or bad, there are not a lot of job openings in the Upper Peninsula, but for those lucky enough to have at least a get-by income, the U.P. is a bit of heaven on earth (for those who love lots of snow and very long winters), and Marquette is a small city with a charm of its own.

Location

The city of Marquette is located on the south shore of Lake Superior, on the northern coast of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Because of the city's location on Marquette Bay, the lake locally is to the east of the city. The coordinates for downtown Marquette at Washington Street and Third Street are 46°32'36.78"N 87°23'43.48"W. Elevation above sea level ranges from 180m (590.5ft) at the lakeshore to 223m (731.6ft) on the outskirts of the city to 443m (1,453.4ft) a few miles inland. There are hills within the city. Move a cursor over the city in Google Earth to see the elevation go up and down.

Marquette is 182 miles north of Green Bay, Wisconsin; 298 miles north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; 454 miles north of Chicago, Illinois; 164 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (the second largest city in the U.P.); 173 miles northwest of St. Ignace, Michigan, which is on the U.P. end of the Mackinac Bridge; 460 miles northwest of Detroit, Michigan; 252 miles east of Duluth, Minnesota; and 377 miles northeast of Minneapolis, Minnesota. All distances are downtown to downtown by car according to Google Maps. For Marquetters to go for shopping and fun to the nearest larger city, Green Bay, Wisconsin, it is a 3.5 hour drive each way.

Some City and County Facts

With a 2015 population of 21,297, the city of Marquette is the largest municipality in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Marquette is the seat of Marquette County and is the regional center for commerce, recreation, education (Northern Michigan University), and health care (Marquette General Hospital). Marquette is in the Eastern Time Zone.

A Winter Drive in Marquette

Personal Impressions of Marquette

My wife and I lived in Marquette for four years, 2002 to 2006. They were good, fondly remembered years on her and my life journeys. Here I will just share some general impressions and random memories, tinted by nostalgia.

I remember that whenever I was away to visit family and friends and returned, when I had started driving that less than five miles stretch of highway from Harvey to Marquette and came around a curve as the highway started following the Lake Superior shoreline and, across Marquette Bay, Marquette came into view, I always had a happy to be home feeling. That may have been because the drive across the U.P. from Escanaba to Marquette is a gauntlet in which the challenges are to not slide off the road on black ice miles from anywhere and to not hit a deer or, worse, a moose,

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I grew up in Winthrop Harbor, Illinois, and whenever I bicycled the half mile to Lake Michigan to play on the beach, I liked to gaze into the distance over the lake. I would get an instant feeling of serenity, a mellow calming and quiet joy. Gazing out over Lake Superior in Marquette was like that, too, which is why I liked to often sit or stroll in Lower Harbor Park or Presque Isle Park.

I was a flatlander all of my life until I lived in Marquette. The U.P. is mostly uplands of very ancient rock, and Marquette is built on several hills. It is the first place I lived where one is more likely to look up or down a hill instead of straight ahead to look at buildings, and this new perspective added to my sense of being in a magical place.

What makes Marquette and environs enchanting? The scenery -- forested rocky highlands, the great lake, the architectures of the town, etc. -- is a factor. The forest comes right up to the city, and while I lived there, the local newspaper sometimes had stories and photos of a beer or a moose in town. Deer were common.

The air is another factor. I wonder if living by forest and water gives people an extra shot of oxygen that induces contentment, joy, and energy?

Another factor that at least for me was cause for wonderment was that in the summer the sun sets as late a 9:46 p.m., with twilight lasting till nearly 10:30.

In my experience, another factor is the people of Marquette and vicinity. They are very nice. From my wife's and my first visit until we moved away years later, that was a notable quality in Marquetters. The tellers in blue jeans in the banks and credit unions were nice; the store clerks were nice; people we got to know were nice; my employers and fellow employees were nice; people demonstrating on opposite sides of an issue were nice. When people face long, snowy winters in a somewhat isolated little city and when a pillar of the local economy is tourism, people learn to be nice to each other to get along and to visitors to make a living.

And I loved Sweet Water Cafe on Third Street, with its fresh foods creatively prepared. The dining area was tranquil, and the kitchen was high energy. Sweet water is sugar maple sap before it is turned into maple syrup, and they serve it in season;

Or maybe the enchantment is just the spirit of the place, some sort of psychic or angelic force that, whatever is happening in my life, brings me an inexplicable emotional background joy while there.

UP 200 Dog Sled Race countdown

Why My Wife and I Would Love to Live Again in Marquette

My wife and I lived in Marquette 2002 to 2006. We went back to visit for a few days in October 2012. We stayed with friends who live a few miles from town in a house they built themselves from trees on their land. We saw changes in the city -- more condominiums and a hotel on the downtown lake front, a Best Buy store on the edge of town, a stop sign intersection turned into a round-about. Most changes are within a city plan that balances preserving charm and gaining tax revenue. Marquette to me was still an enchanted city. It was a joy just to stroll the streets. I can't explain why. Do Lake Superior and the forest put lots of ions in the air? Do the residents, happy with their good luck to be living there, emit good vibrations? Is the city under the charm of Heikki Lunta?

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Questions & Answers

Question: Why did K I Sawyer Air Force base close in 1999?

Answer: According to Wikipedia, K I Sawyer Air Force Base was closed in 1995 because in 1993 the Base Realignment and Closure Commission of the federal government recommended the base for closure. I presume the recommendation was based on the calculation that it would be more cost effective to base elsewhere the bomber and fighter planes at Sawyer. Some of Sawyer AFB became a county airport, Sawyer International, and some of it became an unincorporated residential community still known as Sawyer Air Force Base. The 2016 MLive online article "Poverty in the UP: Down and out in purest Michigan" describes poverty in that community.

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