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Michigan Marvels: Tower of history


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Sault Ste. Marie is the oldest city in Michigan, having been named in 1668 by Jesuit missionary and explorer Fr. Jacques Marquette. So it's fitting that in 1968 a 210-foot tower was built by the Catholic Church to honor early missionaries of the area. 

Built as Shrine of the Missionaries, the tower was to be part of a never-completed shrine to Catholic missionaries of the Upper Peninsula. It was built on the site of Marquette's first log home and chapel in a modernist style.

With constant design changes, the cost of the tower ballooned to nearly $1 million, well over the initial $50,000 estimate. 

Having been conceived as a monument to history and a tourist attraction, the church planned to recoup the cost by charging $1 per visitor. But the church was experiencing financial problems and the Diocese of Marquette took over responsibility for the tower in 1971. In 1980 the Diocese donated the tower to the Sault Historic Sites. 

Today the tower is open from early May to late October. Visitors can either walk the 292 stairs or take a 45-second elevator ride up to the observation decks to learn about Native American and missionary history, as well as take in spectacular views of the town, St. Mary's River and Soo Locks.