The Marquette Regional History Center is turning back their clock to take visitors on a tour through the streets of the old Queen City of the North.
ABC 10’s Rick Tarsitano was on board for their latest journey through time.
The History Center has been conducting walking tours for a while now, but it wasn’t until a few years back that they started thinking about gearing up to take the show on the road.
“People really loved the historical tours of the town and decided, ‘Let’s put it on wheels!’ so that it would go faster and you could see more of the town at one time. Also, it’s a comfortable ride for people who don’t want to do all the walking,” explained Betsy Rutz, an educator at the Marquette Regional History Center.
Because Marquette’s rich history spans a variety of neighborhoods, undulating from one street to the next. So, they decided to enlist the services of the Checker Transport Company to help whisk passengers away to the 1800’s.
“You get to learn about the founders of the town, but also about some everyday folks in Marquette’s history,” Rutz remarked.
Stories from celebrated citizens like Ellen Harlow who arrived in Marquette’s wilderness by way of schooner, or a personal anecdote from President Theodore Roosevelt regarding his lawsuit with a local journalist; all of whom hop on board for a face to face with their friends from the future.
“The people on our tour who are portraying historical characters from Marquette are volunteers and they have done research, here, at the History Center. They are fully immersed in that character and the history of the person. Then, they take on the character and learn how that person may have acted and sounded. We also have costumes for them,” added Rutz, who provides narration during the tour.
“John Monroe Longyear was born in 1850 in Lansing, and moved here in 1873. I am his spirit this summer,” noted Blaine Betts, a Marquette native and former board member at the Marquette Regional History Center.
Longyear is stationed outside the 64–room mansion he built back in 1892 donning a sear sucker suit and 1906 pin, reaffirming his authenticity. He tells tales from his time in town in character, like the horrific account of his son’s drowning in 1900 at the age of twenty.
“Mrs. Longyear could no longer bear to look upon the lake. So that took that house apart, stone by stone; numbered each piece; wrapped them in canvas; packed them in straw; placed them 172 rail cars; and shipped 1,300 miles east to be reconstructed in Brookline, Massachusetts. That was the famous Longyear House that became known by ‘Ripley’s: Believe it or Not’ as ‘The Twice Built House,'” Betts explained.
It’s tidbits of information like this that allow passengers to link the past to the present all while enjoying the modern day comfort of air conditioning.
There’s only one tour left on this year’s run, August 14th at 6 p.m. But, with enough local interest, it might be a mainstay for the History Center for years to come.