Marquette, known as North McGregor, was first discovered by Father Marquette and Louis Joliet on June 17, 1673. In October 1800, the Giard Tract land grant was given to Basil Giard. It was one of three Spanish land grants in what is now Iowa.
North McGregor was incorporated in 1874 and renamed Marquette on March 29, 1920 (Pop. 850). In 1920, Marquette was the largest railroad terminus in Iowa and the railroad yard employed over 400 (CM ST, P.P. RR). There were many established businesses and two churches.
Marquette has experienced several floods. Two destructive floods wiped out homes and businesses in Marquette in 1816 and 1916. The highest river stage of the century (24.5 ft.) happened during the flood of 1965 and the river surrounded the entire town of Marquette. The Corps of Engineers furnished an Army Duck for transportation.
The railroad pontoon bridge was built on April 15, 1874, and was the largest of its kind in the world. It was discontinued October 31, 1961 due to expensive maintenance fees. Two days later tug boats removed the 275 ft. long pontoon, dismantled it, and took it to Lacrosse, WI.
The car suspension bridge connecting Prairie du Chien, WI and Marquette, IA was dedicated June 9 – 11, 1932. At that time, it was the only suspension bridge crossing the Mississippi River. Prior to the bridge, Marquette had three ferries named the Wanamingo, Lorese, and Rob Roy. Each boat carried 12 cars and made seven to eight trips daily. The suspension bridge was officially closed at 1:00 PM on Thursday, November 14, 1974, two hours after the dedication of the Marquette-Joliet Memorial Bridge. The suspension bridge was dismantled in 1975.
The new bridge was closed for repairs due to faulty steel on January 17, 1981. Marquette residents depended on boat service and car ferry service for about 9 months, or they would travel 30 miles north to Lansing or 60 miles south to Dubuque in order to cross a bridge and enter Wisconsin.
The schoolhouse was dedicated January 18, 1924 and housed grades K through 12th. When area schools consolidated with McGregor in 1952, the upper grades were bussed to McGregor and grades K through 3rd from both towns attended school in this building until June of 1986. It now houses an antiques mall .
Points of Interest
- City lies on the bank of the majestic Mississippi River between Pikes Peak State Park and Effigy Mounds National Monument. Bordered by tree-filled bluffs, Marquette is rich with natural beauty.
- Variety of antique shops, restaurants, hotels, and B&B’s.
- Pink Elephant – Historical amusing landmark donning a formal black top hat. You know you’ve arrived in Marquette when you have seen enormous pink elephant in formal attire!
- Lady Luck Riverboat Pavilion and Casino – Buffet food, showroom with live entertainment, floating gambling casino
- Marquette Cafe Restaurant – formally hotel, which housed the traveling, railroad workers – if those walls could talk! Specialty food – 1/2 pound burger – that will fill you up!
- Winery – Sell & produce their own international award winning wines-Best Iowa Wine Award
- New 54 Room Cobblestone Inn & Suites – Frontier Motel with outdoor pool.
- Camping – Primitive grounds located just outside city limits in Bloody Run Park.
- Depot Museum Information Center/Gift Shop – Railroad history in Marquette, welcome center with tourist information
- Driftless Area Wetlands Centre – Provides a unique learning experience that connects people to the natural world
- Marina – Located south of the Mississippi Bridge, provides public parking, picnicking, and a boat dock/launch ramp
- 2nd Marina North of Bridge hosting handicap accessible fishing pier and boat slips.
- Elegant granite veteran’s memorial honoring the veterans of Marquette in the downtown city park
- Flea Market Along the Bluff with over 100 vendors (Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Independence Holiday weekends + two additional weekends in October)
- Friday Night Live – Features Local Foods, Arts, Crafts, Prepared Foods, Live Music, and Educational and Special Programming
- Parade and Fireworks Display each July 4th weekend
- River Board Walk extending 130 feet onto the “Father of Waters” Mississippi River (Fall 2014)
- View for miles at the New Covered Scenic Overlook on the Emma Big Bear Trail/Old Bridge Approach (Fall 2014)
- A mayor, five council members, committees, commissions, and city employees operate the city
- Presently the city is dependent on tourism
- The Lady Luck Riverboat Casino is a major contributor to the city in fees/taxes and as an employer
- Gencor-Bituma is a major employer in manufacturing
- Riverboat casino arrives and begins operation in 1994
- Present population per the 2010 Census is 462
- Police, fire, and rescue (EMS) independent services are exclusively created and contracted to share services between Marquette and McGregor under 28E agreements
- Annexations into the City of Marquette:
- 1994 Riverfront
- 1995 Roundhouse Addition Area
- 2000 Ohmer Property
- 2005 Timber Ridge
- Marquette Flood Stage Level: 16 Feet
- Flood 2001 – Crested at 24.75 Feet on April 21, 2001 – National Guard, American Red Cross, local and area volunteers called in
- Flood 1993 – River Crested 21.92 Feet on April 24 – National Guard called in
- Flood 1965 – River crested at 25.38 Feet on April 24, 1965 – Entire downtown submerged in water