A place Where anything goes


This house, based on evolving principles and transformative adventures, sits right in the heart of Marquette.

Isabelle Tavares

The quaint green house nestled on Fourth
Street is not your ordinary home. Walk through

the front door and you’ll see community climbing harnesses strung through the walkway. To the

left, a piano sits in the sunroom next to an aquaponics system. Outside, compost feeds nutrients

to the garden soil. Straight ahead lies the pinnacle of the house, the bouldering room.

It started with a group of NMU student
climbers that hopped around rental houses
in Marquette, drilling rock climbing holds

into the walls wherever they went, resident Scott Culbert, senior environmental

science major said. The group decided
to ditch the hassle of changing climbing
holds for a permanent place to set up.

Alumnus Ian Girad purchased the vine
covered abandoned house six years ago,
invested his energy for new infrastructure
and created his vision for a sustainable
climbing cooperative.

“There was hardly any electricity running in the house when the first climbers moved

in. Now we get to enjoy everything the original
members put in,” Culbert said.

Current members include NMU students

Olivia Walcott, senior and environmental science major, and Sarah Head, junior and economics major. Other members include Stephen

Wolf and Kara Wilkinson who graduated from
NMU with biology degrees.

The co-op is a community space with an open

door policy, and members encourage newcomers to come over and climb, Culbert said. The

co-op functions on 13 codes of living, which include living sustainably and intentionally, valuing family time and promoting growth. Culbert

said he considers them to be evolving, since each
principle embodies the house culture they wish
to sustain.

Walcott’s favorite principle is: “This is a safe
place to fail,” she said.

“It would be pretty detrimental if I failed in other parts of life,” Walcott said. “I can experiment with different aspects of sustainability

without the pressure of needing success and I’m
best friends with all of my roommates.”

The name of the house begs the question: Do
you have to be a climber to live here?

“Not at all. I feel like some people think it’s a
requirement but climbing isn’t even thought of
in the application process,” Culbert said.

The spectrum of climber’s experience varies,
some are beginners, and some are incredibly
dedicated to climbing, Culbert said.

Members of the house pay on a mortgage, and

excess money is reinvested into the house for various sustainability projects. To be considered a

nonprofit by the city, members have to navigate

outdated zoning language and set a clear definition for a housing cooperative, Culbert said. The

co-op strives to maintain an active relationship
with the city by attending city council meetings,
he added.

The co-op is run democratically, and decisions about the house are voted on by all

members in their weekly meetings. Tasks
for the house are organized on a large
chalkboard in the living room, called the

“Command Center,” Culbert said. Members go through multiple steps in committing to a project, and they make sure that

it gets completed, Culbert said.

As a freshman, Walcott would boulder at
the co-op every Friday night, and surrounded
herself with role models that shaped her
time in Marquette, she said.

“They showed me that you can be good
at academics and at climbing. Freshman

year is time to give yourself to a lot of different things,” Walcott said.

To live there, applicants fill out a basic information sheet and are asked to answer a few questions about their experience with sustainable living. Questions such as what is your favorite code

of living? What project would you bring to the
house and how can you grow from it? are asked,
Culbert said.

“There’s not another space in town
where you can propose a project and have
the space, funding and tools to do it,”
Culbert said. “This house is really goofy because
we can do whatever we want.”