Loading
Search
NEWS STORIES

Saving the Ore DockSubmitted: 03/15/2013
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com

Saving the Ore Dock
ASHLAND - In Rhinelander, the Hodag symbolizes the community.

In another northern Wisconsin community, it's something else.

And Ashland could be about to lose that icon.

"Everyone has an ore dock story," says Jan Cameron, the Vice President of the Ashland Historical Society Board.

Since it has jutted into Chequamegon Bay since 1916, it figures that folks here have a connection to Ashland's iconic ore dock.

"My grandfather helped build these ore docks," says Jeff Peters, an Ashland native.

"Pretty neat spot to be when it's midnight and the northern lights are out, and you're 21 years old," remembers Fred Tidstrom.

"We've been loving this dock as a community for a long, long, time, and it's really very difficult for us to see it go down," says Cameron.

But as it nears its centennial birthday, this symbol of Ashland's fate looks like it has been written.

Cameron is with the Ashland Historical Museum, a place where you can journey through time with the ore dock.

"It's a massive structure. If you stood it on end, it would be taller than the Sears Tower," she says.

Iron ore mined in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula would come to the Ashland area by train.

Rail cars would follow the tracks onto the top of the dock, and empty their cargo onto waiting barges below.

That ore was shipped to the vibrant steel mills across America.

Between miners and those on the trains, docks, and ships, the process was an economy in itself.

"People identify with a way of life. They're very proud of it, they cherish it. For so many years, so many people got their livelihood off of the ore dock," says State Rep. Janet Bewley, an Ashland Democrat.

Then, in the middle of the 20th century, "as soon as the mines stopped mining, the ore stopped being shipped. It was as simple as that," Cameron says.

The last ship left the dock with ore in 1965.

For more than forty years, Ashland's beloved symbol sat dormant.

Then, the seemingly unthinkable.

"It just became too much of a liability. It's been a bitter pill," Cameron says.

The owners, the Canadian National railroad, after talking with several government groups, started taking it down.

"It's hard. It's hard to see a way of life go away," says Bewley.

But the metal was rusting, the wood was deteriorating, and the concrete was breaking.

The environmental and safety liability was just too much, something tough for natives here to take.

The nearly 100-year old ore dock is not only an iconic image in Ashland.

It's part of something deeper for people who live there, and whose families have lived there for generations.

It's part of their identity.

"Ashland High School is named after the ore dock. They're the Oredockers," says Peters.

Tidstrom was on the 1946 Ashland football team that helped give them that name.

Ashland shocked Wausau High School with a 13-7 upset win.

Wausau had won 46 straight games coming in.

A local sportswriter captured the excitement.

"After the game, he wrote up the story, and he called us the Oredockers. We thought that was pretty cool," Tidstrom remembers.

Now, the monument the team was named after is in danger of vanishing.

"Once it's gone, we get comments as bad as, 'do we get to be the No-Dockers?'" says Cameron.

"I tell them, it isn't the dock, it's the men. They were a proud group of men that had a dangerous job to feed their family. So you're honoring the men, not the dock," says Tidstrom.

Already the upper structure is mostly gone.

Other parts of the dock will continue to be dismantled.

But that doesn't mean the ore dock's legacy has to disappear forever.

The dock's base, everything near or below the waterline, remains in good condition.

"To build upon it is a very do-able thing. It's of a scale that, I think, resonates with people in a much more obtainable way," Bewley says.

Peters is one of the people thinking ahead to new memories that could be made on the new look of the ore dock.

He's not short of ideas.

"Educational interpretive center...a cruise line has expressed interest...transient boat docking facility...fishing piers for kids," says Peters. "The most important thing is if area residents, citizens, want to see the ore dock preserved and renovated, they've got to show their support right now. As I see it, we can win, but we need a real grassroots level of support."

"We will always have a dock. We will always have that. Then we'll have that to build tomorrow on," Bewley says.

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
| Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com





 IN OTHER NEWS
What We're Working OnSubmitted: 09/24/2018

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:


We'll bring you the latest information on a fatal house fire in Rhinelander Friday evening.

The hot summer has made things difficult for farmers and harvests. We talk to an apple orchard owner and apple picker about struggles the orchard had to overcome this harvest season.

And following yesterday's Green Bay Packer loss to Washington, we'll tell you about a key defensive player that is out for the year with injuries, and we'll hear from Clay Matthews on his frustration with questionable roughing the passer penalties against him this season.


We'll bring you the details on these stories and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

+ Read More

MILWAUKEE - Republican U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir says opponents to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are engaging in "last-minute character assassination."

Vukmir on Monday called for Democrats to "stop the political posturing and hold a vote this week on Judge Kavanaugh's nomination."

+ Read More

Play Video

ANTIGO - People don't need to travel all over the world for international food. 

+ Read More

MADISON, WIS. (AP) - Madison officials say Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents violated city policy by detaining at least six immigrants without letting police know ahead of time.

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval says the department has a working relationship with ICE, but the federal agency did not follow protocol. Koval says ICE has agreed to call the assistant police chief before making arrests in Madison. This time the agency called the Dane County Communications Center.

Koval says the arrests were made at separate workplaces and are not considered to be part of a raid. He says the community is in "hyper-warp distress mode."

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin says ICE told city officials the people arrested are believed to have committed serious crimes, but he does not know the specifics of the investigation.

+ Read More

Play Video

WITTENBURG - Michael and Deb Obernik tied the knot a month ago. Their love blossomed into 320 acres of hemp on their farm.

+ Read More

WISCONSIN DELLS, WIS. (AP) - Three Illinois men are dead after their sport utility vehicle collided with a pickup near Wisconsin Dells.

Columbia County sheriff's authorities say the men were in a Toyota 4Runner that collided with a Chevrolet Silverado at an intersection on State Highway 127 on Saturday.

Authorities say the Toyota SUV apparently failed to yield the right of way at a stop sign. The three men died at the scene. Authorities say they apparently were not wearing seat belts.

The 33-year-old woman who was driving the pickup was flown to UW Hospital. Her passenger, a 33-year-old man, was taken to another hospital.

Names and hometowns of the victims were not released.

+ Read More

Play Video

THREE LAKES - After 30 years, Dr. George Karling decided it's time to retire as the Three Lakes District Administrator.

He plans to leave after the school year ends, but the school board is already preparing to find his replacement.

Early next month, the Three Lakes School District will host two input sessions for the public.

Three Lakes residents can go to give their opinions on what they want in a replacement. 

Karling's decision to retire comes about a month after he faced criticism for allowing the district to be featured in a campaign ad for Gov. Scott Walker. 

People who can't make it can still send their thoughts to the Three Lakes Board of Education. People can submit comments by writing to:

Board of Education, Three Lakes School District
6930 West School St. 
Three Lakes, WI 54562 

or email: tr@threelakessd.k12.us.



+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 





Click Here