The Ore Dock: its past

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A three part series of the past, present and future of the Ore Dock in Marquette’s Lower Harbor begins with the Ore Dock you see now, which is the 6th dock and called the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Dock.

“At one time, Marquette had three functional ore docks operating in the Lower Harbor simultaneously,” recalled Marquette Maritime Museum’s Board President Fred Stonehouse. “This, of course, is the last one that is left.”

The current dock was built almost 90 years ago, in 1931. “Construction began in April of that year,” said Beth Gruber, Assistant Librarian at the John M. Longyear Research Library. “It was completed by June of 1932.”

The Ore Dock was used to ship iron ore to local mines, primarily the Tracy Mine. In the 40 years the dock was in operation, it shipped almost 24 million tons of iron ore. “The first year it was in operation, it shipped 122,000 tons of iron ore,” said Gruber. “Its peak year was in 1969, and that year, it shipped 1.16 million tons of ore.”

However, the Ore Dock served more than just one purpose, and was vital to the United States military during World War II, as well. “This was a critical facility for shipping all that raw material that went into the fleets and other military equipment that actually won the war,” explained Marquette City Planner David Stensaas.

The Ore Dock officially closed on December 31 of 1971, as a result of the closing of the Tracy Mine.

There is an urban legend that there was a body found here at the Ore Dock in the mid-80s, but historians say it’s not a legend. “October of 1988, a couple of teens were trespassing on the dock, and they found a body up in one of the ore pockets,” said Gruber. “It was identified as a local transient resident named Timothy Lane. He was 17 when he went missing in 1986. They think that he slipped and fell – they didn’t find any broken bones, but they suspected that he either died from internal injuries or exposure.”

Stay tuned to Local 3 News Thursday night where we’ll focus on the present day Lower Harbor Ore Dock.

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