The Wooden Nickel Goes Purple

Well, it might be lilac or some shade of pink, but no one can deny the Wooden Nickel has a new look. Apparently, the building was painted late last summer but I didn’t get to that part of town until recently to see it.

The Wooden Nickel Marquette Michigan

The Wooden Nickel's New Color!

Why am I surprised by the color change? Those of you from Marquette will be surprised too. In fact, when I posted on Facebook a week ago that the Wooden Nickel was purple, I got many expressions of shock from former Yoopers who no longer live in the area.

You see, the Wooden Nickel has long been known as Marquette’s biker bar, and probably the toughest bar in Marquette. Is it trying to change its image? And just what kind of image is it going for?

I don’t know much about the Wooden Nickel’s history, but if anyone else does, I would love to hear about it. According to its website, it is the oldest bar in Marquette. It is also going to be featured in a book on Yooper Bars. I am skeptical about the “oldest bar” designation since I know Remillard’s Bar dates back to the 1800s and North Marquette wasn’t really settled until more around the 1920s. However, I am sure the bar’s sign is correct in saying it is “the only lasting original.” I asked my great-aunt who is 93 and grew up in North Marquette and she said when she was a kid, back in the 1920s the building was a candy store – maybe the purple is a fallback to those days. According to the 1950 city directory, it was Lowell’s Tavern & Restaurant (1743 Presque Isle Ave), then by 1960’s city directory it was the Furnace Tavern (1745 Presque Isle Ave), and the 1983 city directory shows it as the Wooden Nickel (1751 Presque Isle Ave). I don’t know if that means Lowell’s was really a building next door or they kept changing the street address, but it has been the Wooden Nickel ever since. (As a historical aside, it’s not easy to find taverns in the 1950 city directory. There’s no listing for “bars” and when you look up “taverns” it says to see “beer gardens.” Even then, “beer garden” must have been an outdated term. The only real beer garden I know Marquette ever had was at the old Castle Brewery.

I admit I was only in it once in college about 1992 when my friends and I donned leather and jean jacket so we would look tough and only went in it to say we had been there.

How the Wooden Nickel is perceived versus how tough it really is I don’t know. I do know my great-uncle, who lived a few blocks up the road, thought nothing in his seventies and early eighties of walking down to the Wooden Nickel for a beer.

The Wooden Nickel bar Marquette

The Wooden Nickel Bar, Presque Isle Ave. Marquette

On the Wooden Nickel’s website it says, “We offer an enjoyable atmosphere for everyone, College Students to their Grandparents.” Will this change in perception scare off the bikers? Well, for all my Facebook friends who demanded I post a photo of the new purple Wooden Nickel, here are the photos and you can see there’s a motorcycle parked outside. Bikers must like purple too. And why not? It’s a great color.

Maybe it’s time we all check out the Wooden Nickel again. You might like it so much you’ll even decide to buy a Wooden Nickel t-shirt or thong, available at its website and if you want to see how it looked when it was still brown, check out its photos on its Facebook page at

I hope some of you more familiar with the Wooden Nickel can enlighten me more on its long history.

Explore posts in the same categories: Marquette History, Upper Michigan History, Upper Michigan Sites to Visit

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11 Comments on “The Wooden Nickel Goes Purple”

  1. It was a shock indeed seeing it turned purple. Maybe it’s a nod to the “good ol days” of the Nickel, when there was a good chance you were leaving that establishment bruised?

    Or perhaps its a kinder, gentler, gentrified approach to catering to the college crowd. I’d not been there in many years when I stopped in for a beer last year. I found a friendly crowd of regulars, a selection of college students, a pool league shooting and nary a biker to be seen in the place.

    Peanut shells were still strewn on the floor and the old “vibe” and ecclectica was there…. but there wasn’t really even a hint of the rowdy reputation the place was always known for in my memory. I once saw a man get hit in the head with a shovel out back….. that sort of thing doesnt tend to happen at bars that are lilac….

  2. Linda Storms Says:

    The Wooden Nickel is something you have to check out…a fun place and worth a visit if you have never been there or your last visit was a while ago. The new color….got your attention, didn’t it?

  3. Bedhead Says:

    Wow… the Nickel has a Facebook page? Who knew! Ten O’Clock Charlie’s and Margaritaville were the hot places to be in Marquette in my day… which seems like just yesterday but it was almost 25 years ago! Ouch!

  4. Lala Rose Says:

    My Dad threw his share of chairs around when the place was the Furnace Tavern, back in the late sixties. He was in grad school at NMU and we lived in the Norwood Apts. Crazy years but wonderful memories when we were kids!

  5. Michael R Horton Says:

    I spent a lot of time in the Furnace from 1966 until 1970. It was owned by my good friend Pete Gearhart during that time. I remember a fairly tough group of local patrons but the only blow struck that I remember seeing was a wife hitting her husband with her purse. It was a neighborhood bar in a tough working class neighborhood. I worked there, drank there, met friends there and took my wife there without any problems. Mike Horton

  6. Heather Modell Says:

    “Wooden Nickel” the “oldest” bar in Marquette?? I think not!! According to Marquette City tax records, Remies was built in 1873, and the business has remained same name/ same location since John Remillard opened in 1934, (shortly after Prohibition officially ended.) Prior to Prohibition, our current business was an established Saloon/ Boarding House from the 1870’s- 1917/1918. We are only the 2nd family to own/operate this business in the last 82 years!!!! (And yes, I’ve been recently spending a lot of time researching these very facts in the archives at Marquettte’s Regional History Museum. I am a serious history buff!)

    • Thanks for the comment, Heather. I completely agree with you – the Wooden Nickel is definitely a late comer to the Marquette bar scene and Remillard’s has a far more consistent and documentable history. Thanks for the additional info.

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