Happy 100th Birthday to Presque Isle’s LS&I Ore Dock
2012 marks the 100th birthday of the Lake Superior & Ishpeming Railroad Ore Dock in Marquette’s Upper Harbor at Presque Isle Park. Cleveland-Cliffs has been airing a commercial commemorating its significant history, and on July 15th the tall ship the Niagara will be arriving to celebrate its birthday.
In honor of the ore dock’s birthday, I am posting the passage about it from my book My Marquette:
Then John took Wendy on a walking tour around Presque Isle. Luckily, an ore boat was in the harbor, so they walked out on the breakwall to watch the boat load its cargo from the pocket dock. — Superior Heritage, The Marquette Trilogy: Book Three
By the late nineteenth century, three ore docks operated in the Lower Harbor. Then in 1912, an ore dock was built in the Upper Harbor. Nearly a century later, it is Marquette’s only operating dock and nineteen years older than its Lower Harbor sister which sits silently.
The Upper Harbor’s LS&I Dock, belonging to the Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad, unloads ore from the mines onto ships bound for Canada and various ports in the Great Lakes. The dock stands seventy-five feet high and projects 1,200 feet into Lake Superior. Nearly 10,000 timber piles are driven twenty feet deep to support the dock’s size and weight. Workers must climb 103 steps to the dock’s top to help load the ore. Lucky tourists will see a ship along either side of the ore dock with the dock’s chutes open to load the ore, a process that can take several hours.
Marquette’s last remaining operating pocket dock is considered so important that following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the government was concerned it would be a target by terrorists to disrupt shipping on the Great Lakes.
The LS&I dock remains a testament to Marquette’s raison d’etre—to carry ore to industrial centers like Buffalo and Cleveland so it can be made into steel. Upper Michigan’s iron ore has played an integral part in the United States’ modernization from its use to build cannons and ships in the Civil War to over a century of constructing automobiles. As long as the mines operate and ore boats pull up to the LS&I dock, Marquette will remain connected to its past.