Monday, April 11, 2011 By Aaron Brown
If you go from Hibbing to Grand Rapids you drive by Marble all the time. It's one of the bypassed towns, like most of the Range. You've got Grand Rapids, Hibbing and Ely that snare you completely. Virginia and Eveleth, Calumet, Coleraine and Tower will slow you down a little. Everything else, a couple dozen neat little towns, can be seen at 65 miles an hour, if you bother to look.
Marble's a nice little town; declining of course, but what isn't these days? You can pick up a decent little house here for $40,000. You've got a gas station, bar and restaurant, a nice ballfield and access to the Mesabi Trail out the back side of town. One could easily move here, but few do. A quick glance explains that the people who live here are either retirees or young families without much money. They will move out when they can or must, to be replaced by the same. This town will not change much for another 100 years.
I was attracted by the view of an old mine dump beginning to green up with the spring, so we took a stroll down the Mesabi Trail at sunset. That trail is smooth and sharp-looking. A decade of development, aided by the advocacy and clout of former Rep. and House transportation chair Jim Oberstar, had a lot to do with that. We wondered aloud if we were seeing the trail in as good a condition as it ever would appear. I sure hope not.
The main street of Marble looks about the same after 100 years. Looks, but isn't. One wonders about the future of places like this. I see possibilities here. Walk up the trail toward the mountain that our immigrant ancestors built from scratch. You will see something special, not like the flatland towns or hollow exurbs. This is a hard rock place with trees and water, and our history is lying around in staining red dirt that you couldn't remove if you tried.
Stop and look for yourself.