1868 Fire changes the face of Marquette

MARQUETTE — Marquette residents got the chance to learn about an event that completely changed the area’s history.

Jim Koski led a walking tour around Marquette, showing how a huge fire that swept through the area in 1868 effected the people that lived there. Unfortunately, not much is known about what happened that fateful night.

“This is an event that, like I said, that was so poorly documented that you really have to dig down to find out some stuff that was going on. Remember, in 1868, this was before radio, this was even before TV, definitely before social media,” said Koski.

Fortunately, the Negaunee newspaper reported the story and several individuals involved in the fire wrote letters about it. Over the course of one night, the fire destroyed 120 businesses and left 40 families homeless.

“The only thing that saved the City of Marquette from total destruction is the fact that the 100 and 200 blocks of Baraga Avenue are ninety feet wide. If the street had been a normal sized street, there may not have been a Marquette to rebuild,”

But, there’s a silver lining to every story. After the fire, the city banned any wooden building materials, leading to the beautiful sandstone and brick architecture you see downtown today.