Michigan and heavy industry

In Detroit, we gaze in awe at a huge mural in the banking hall of the Guardian Building. It stretches over six floors and shows the map of Michigan, a state consisting of two peninsulas. MANUFACTURE is written in large letters on the large lower peninsula and MINING on the upper peninsula. These two components were once the driving forces behind heavy industry.

Das große Wandbild im Bankensaal des Guardian Buildings in Detroit stellt den Bundesstaat Michigan und seine Industriezweige dar, gemalt vom amerikanischen Künstler Ezra Augustus Winter / © Foto: Georg Berg
The large mural in the banking hall of the Guardian Building in Detroit depicts the state of Michigan and its industries, painted by American artist Ezra Augustus Winter. The state motto is the Latin saying: Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam, circumspice (If you are looking for a lovely peninsula, look around you) / © Photo: Georg Berg

However, the success story began with a defeat. When Michigan was to be granted the status of a US state in 1835, there were disagreements with the state of Ohio over the southern border at the city of Toledo. Both territories mobilized armies, but it did not come to the feared War of Toledo. The US Congress ruled in favor of Ohio and gave the new state of Michigan the Upper Peninsula, which was considered worthless at the time, as compensation. However, enormous mineral resources were later discovered there, making Michigan an industrial state and Detroit the capital of US car production. After Detroit’s spectacular bankruptcy in 2013, the structural change attracted many creative people and today the city is once again up-and-coming and attractive.

Marquette became the center of iron mining

Wandbild in der Stadt Marquette zeigt den 1853 erbauten Leuchtturm und einen Erzfrachter im Sonnenuntergang / © Foto: Georg Berg
Mural in the city of Marquette shows the lighthouse built in 1853 and an ore freighter at sunset / © Photo: Georg Berg

Marquette, named after the Jesuit priest Jaques Marquette, is a quiet little town today. An impressive building at the marina amazes us, but its function is not immediately obvious. We had never seen anything so massive before. An explanatory panel begins philosophically: “Patience is a virtue that is often preached to us. But impatience breeds innovation, and that’s how the first pocket dock for iron ore was created.” Then the plaque gets specific: “In 1857, Captain George Judson had had enough. It took six days and 20 men to load his ship with shovels and wheelbarrows. During this time, other ships were jammed in front of the harbor. Over time, larger and larger facilities were built and the dock, which is still visible today, reduced the loading time to 92 minutes per ship.

Das Eisenerz Taschendock in der Innenstadt von Marquette ist nicht mehr in Betrieb. Über dem jetzigen Parkplatz gab es eine Geleisbrücke für die mit Erz beladenen Züge, die ohne lange Wartezeit ihre Ladung in die längsseits liegenden Schiffe kippen konnten / © Foto: Georg Berg
The iron ore pocket dock in downtown Marquette is no longer in operation. There was a railroad bridge over the current parking lot for the trains loaded with ore, which could dump their cargo into the ships alongside without a long wait / © Photo: Georg Berg

Outside of town, we can see a similar structure that shows that Marquette, with its deep-water port, is still an important transshipment point for the iron ore mined just a few miles inland.

Eisenerz aus dem Tilden Tagebau wird mit Zügen zum Marquette Tiefseehafen gebracht und im Taschendock direkt auf Schiffe gekippt / © Foto: Georg Berg
Iron ore from the Tilden opencast mine is brought to the Marquette deep-sea port by train and tipped directly onto ships in the pocket dock / © Photo: Georg Berg

Iron mining in Ishpeming

In 1844, an exploration team in the Marquette backcountry noticed large swings on their compass needle and discovered a large iron ore deposit that brought jobs and prosperity to the Upper Peninsula over the next century. Today, the boom has subsided and you can walk along disused tracks and see many silent witnesses to 160 years of mining on the 75-kilometer iron ore nature trail.

Schon 4 Meter hoch sind nur die Reifen des Erztransporters, der vor den Fördertürmen von Ishpeming ausgestellt ist. Mit ihm konnten 170 Tonnen Erz transportiert werden. Im Hintergrund der 1967 stillgelegte Förderturm in Form eines Obelisken , der vom Architekten George Washington Maher entworfen wurde und der modernere Koepe-Förderturm von 1955. Stille Zeugen des Eisenbergbaus in der Stadt Ishpeming / © Foto: Georg Berg
The tires of the huge ore transporter alone, which is on display in front of the winding towers of Ishpeming, are four meters high. It could be used to transport 170 tons of ore. In the background is the obelisk-shaped winding tower designed by architect George Washington Maher, which was decommissioned in 1967, and on the right is the more modern Koepe winding tower from 1955. Silent witnesses of iron mining in the town of Ishpeming / © Photo: Georg Berg
Das Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum im ehemaligen Trockengebäude, in dem sich die Bergleute umzogen, stellt die Bergbaugeschichte der Region dar. Im Hintergrund der 1967 stillgelegte Fördertum "A-Shaft" vom Architekten George Washington Maher in Form eines Obelisken in Form eines Obelisken entworfen / © Foto: Georg Berg
The Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum in the former dry building of the colliery. The building, where the miners used to change clothes, presents the mining history of the region. In the background, the “A-Shaft” winding tower designed by architect George Washington Maher in the shape of an obelisk, which was shut down in 1967 / © Photo: Georg Berg

Industrial architecture in Egyptian style

The museum presents the mining history of the region. Objects that were used to dig the ore are displayed in front of the museum. The museum director hopes that at some point there will be enough funds to make the inside of the concrete obelisks accessible to visitors. For once, she opens the rusty iron door for us so that we can enter. At the site where more than 28 million tons of iron ore were mined, all we can hear today is the flapping of the wings of the pigeons that nest here.

Für Besucher noch nicht zugänglich ist der Förderturm von Schacht A. Bis 1967 wurde hier im Unter-Tage-Bergbau der Hauptanteil der US-Hematit-Produktion gefördert / © Foto: Georg Berg
The winding tower of shaft A is not yet accessible to visitors. Until 1967, the majority of US hematite production was extracted here in underground mining / © Photo: Georg Berg
Der Betonobelisk wurde 1911 im laufenden Betrieb um den bestehenden hölzernen Förderturm gebaut / © Foto: Georg Berg
The concrete obelisk was built around the existing wooden winding tower in 1911 during ongoing operations / © Photo: Georg Berg

Cinema, pubs, cannabis

Mining made the region prosperous and traces of the leisure activities of the time can still be seen today. The booming region attracted miners from many parts of Europe. The Vista Cinema was founded in 1926 by a Finn and had the reputation of being the best theater north of Milwaukee and east of Minneapolis. Thanks to a citizens’ initiative, it is still in operation. The pub culture in this area is also not to be underestimated and Michigan beer enjoys an excellent reputation in the United States.

Das Vista Kino wurde von 1926 von dem in Finnland geborenen Jafet Jacob Rytkonen eröffnet und blieb bis 1972 in Familienbesitz. 1973 gründete eine Gruppe von Bürgern der Region den Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council (PAAC), der das Kino bis heute betreibt / © Foto: Georg Berg
The Vista Cinema in Negaunee was opened in 1926 by Finnish-born Jafet Jacob Rytkonen and remained in the family until 1972. In 1973, a group of local citizens founded the Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council (PAAC), which still operates the movie theater today / © Photo: Georg Berg
Die Kognisjon Bryggeri existiert in Marquette erst seit 2023. Ihre Wurzeln hat die Brauerei jedoch in der Bergwerksstadt. Hinter der Bar ist eine Nachbildung der Cliffs Shaft Mine in Ishpeming zu sehen - eine Hommage an die ehemalige Heimat der Cognition Brewery, die sich in der alten Bar des Mather Inn befand / © Foto: Georg Berg
The Kognisjon Bryggeri has only existed in Marquette since 2023, but the brewery has its roots in a mining town 20 kilometers away. Behind the bar is a replica of the Cliffs Shaft Mine in Ishpeming – a tribute to the former home of the Cognition Brewery, which was located in the old bar of the Mather Inn / © Photo: Georg Berg

If you also want to immerse yourself in history when it comes to beer, you can have a good time in an old brewery. In 1883, the German Martin Vierling founded a pub in the middle of Marquette, which included a gentlemen’s saloon and a sample room where women could also enjoy a meal. Prohibition in 1917 led to several changes of ownership and use, but today the Historic Vierling Saloon & Sample Room exists again, furnished with original stained glass and oil paintings from Martin Vierling’s own collection.

Deutsche Küche und selbst gebrautes Bier im Vierling Restaurant / © Foto: Georg Berg
German cuisine and home-brewed beer in the Vierling Restaurant / © Photo: Georg Berg

The Grass is Greener over Here

An unusual sight for Europeans can be found along many highways in Michigan. Former petrol stations have been discreetly converted into cannabis shopping centers and the goods are sold over the counter. This would not be allowed in the neighboring state of Wisconsin.

Nur in manchen amerikanischen Bundesstaaten ist Canabis legal. Die offiziellen Verkaufsstellen im Bundesstaat Michigan sind nicht zu übersehen / © Foto: Georg Berg
Only in some American states is cannabis legal. The official sales outlets in the state of Michigan cannot be overlooked / © Photo: Georg Berg

Indian summer is no longer correct

Sugarloaf Mountain am Superior Lake zur Zeit des Indian Summer / © Foto: Georg Berg
Sugarloaf Mountain on Superior Lake at the time of the Fall Foliage / © Photo: Georg Berg

Finally, we need to clear up a misconception. When the leaves turn colorful in the fall, especially in North America, we have learned that everyone is happy about Indian Summer. But in a changing world, we learn more about each other. On our trip, we realized that we use many expressions without questioning their meaning or origin. The term Indian summer is controversial as its origin is unclear and possibly derogatory. Many feel it is disrespectful to Native Americans and therefore prefer alternative terms such as Second Summer or more neutrally Fall Foliage.

Our journey through Michigan starts in the capital Detroit with classics and new attractions of a city in transition. The huge Michigan Central station, once a ruined line, celebrated its comeback as a research location for mobility in 2023. However, the options for getting around Detroit have long been extremely diverse, as mobility in Motown works pretty well even without a car. The journey continues to Traverse City on Lake Michigan with the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. Mission Point Lighthouse is one of these lighthouses with a history. Why the lighthouse in Grand Traverse County is particularly popular with women is explained in the story about Sarah Lane and the keeper program. We continue on to Charlevoix. The town has a maritime flair and lots of stones. There are Petoskey stones on the beach and Earl Young’s famous stone houses in the town. USA without cars? A fact on Mackinac Island. The success story of Michigan’s heavy industry began with a defeat.

The research was supported by Pure Michigan

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