Prosperity to Ruin

a town now in ruin

The prosperity of the Copper Country slowly died along with the industry that provided it, until the bottom fell out with the closing of C&H in the late ’60s. While some towns – such as Houghton and Hancock – were able to meek out a life for decades after this calamity other towns were not so lucky. Laurium was not so lucky.

Once Laurium sported various large banks, a three story department store and much more. One by one these businesses left with the population that once supported them. Now, very little is left in Laurium – even most of the bars left. Instead, you find deteriorating building after building – most vacant and forgotten. Driving through town – as most people see Laurium – it doesn’t look too bad. But get out and take a stroll along the old forgotten buildings, and a much more dismal sight confronts you. Laurium tells a story known only too well; a tale of once proud and bustling communities forgotten and ignored by the people that once gave them life. A tale of prosperity to ruin in the Copper Country.

From the perspective of the First National Bank building featured yesterday, the upper floors of the State Savings Bank are seen boarded up

The once prestigeous entrance remains at the State Savings Bank, but the bank has long been replaced by a health clinic

A more modern appliance on a old building, the neon “police” sign at city hall offers a strange juxtaposition

Grand thinking on display – city hall in a village

Detailed ornamentation can still be found on the old buildings of Laurium, as with this detail here on the Marta Block Building

Another disintegrating gem in Laurium, the Marta Block is Jacobsville sandstone construction at its best

A closer look at the Marta Block. Its a shame that this building along the bank buildings have been allowed to ruin.

Remnants of an old sight on the side of a building in Laurium. A sign for a business that hasn’t been in business for probably over 50 years

Yes there was a Montgomery Wards in Laurium. This old sign is all that remains, now the building holds the Yard Sale resale shop
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  1. Beautiful, but sad photos. They remind me of my childhood, and the bike rides taken “down-town”. It seemed such a long distance from Iroquois St. to the Supervalue back then.

  2. Thanks for the nice comment. The march of time has not been kind to Laurium, and its a shame considering how beautiful these buildings must of been once. At least Calumet has been more fortunate, as a quick drive down 5th street reveals a string of face-lifts and renovations reviving the once vibrant metropolis. Perhaps some one will pay the same attention to some of these buildings in Laurium.

  3. It’s amazing that I grew up in Laurium (Florida St.) and still return a few times a year and have not noticed many of the objects in your pictures. It’s incredible how you can see something everyday and just not notice it. My family moved to Laurium in 1979. I was five at the time. I graduated from Calumet in 1991 and often find myself daydreaming about what it was like living day to day in Laurium/Calumet. Such fond memories. Now I have three children of my own and wish they could have the smae kind of childhood memories that I had. Unfortunately, we now live in Columbus, Ohio. They will experience a totally different childhood. Probably one filled with video games, cell phones, and the internet. I take my kids to the metro parks and the zoo, but they will very rarely have a chance to see a black bear, a wolf, or a moose in the wild as I did. As a teenager I wanted nothing but to leave the area. As an adult, I can only dream about being back.

  4. I think everyone tends to not notice the details in the place they live. It’s amazing to me how many locals don’t known about half the stuff I find in my explorations. Slowing down just a bit in this fast paced world, you tend to notice the small stuff. Of course, in the case of Laurium, I also noticed how bad the condition of the buildings had become. The pace of progress I suppose.

  5. We’ll be back in July for a week. Summer is by far my favorite time of year to visit the area. Both by parents and my wive’s parents both live in Laurium. Hopefully I will be able to take some time to look at the details. Laurium may be losing some (most) of it’s luster, but many of the residents who live their still have a lot of pride in their hometown.

  6. While the commercial area of Laurium has been neglected, the residential areas are an almost complete 180. The beautiful houses are well taken care of, and walking down any Laurium street (especially Tamarack) quickly brings to mind the towns bygone prosperity. Laurium residents should be proud of their town, and I hope to post an album taking a look at Laurium’s brighter side in the near future.

  7. Interesting. I visit this site because I miss my time in the Copper Country. What struck me is I always wondered about the house I used to live in, 200N Florida St.. My next door neighbors had a little boy named Jay. I lived there from Nov 80 till Summer 83. Little Jay was always talking about his summer trips to Ceder Point! If this is the same Jay, how are your mom and dad?

  8. Scott – As they say its a small world after all… If your curious about your old house I’ll have to got out and take a shot of it today if it’s been a while since you’ve been back…

  9. I sure would be!!! It was an old house, built in the 20’s, that cost twice as much to heat as the compared to the rent. I was up there twice, first in the mid 70’s and then again in the early 80’s as an active duty member of the Coast Guard.

    One of the things I love to look for when visiting web sites about the CC is people curious about the old Coast Guard station out by Ft McLain, and the old telephone line I used to take care of that ran from Copper Harbor out to the point, then under water to Manitou Is. I spent my first summer as a Coastie up there constantly brushing the pole lie and repairing it, preparing the line for the winter. This line went to Manitou Is and provided phone service to the crew that maned the light house on the Is. In fact, myself and another Coastie were on Manitou, doing repair work, when the Fitzsgerald went down, ended up spending two weeks living with the light crew untill a boat could get back and pick us up. I think the old pole line is gone, but I’ll bet the service road is still there, and I wonder if people even know why that road was there to begin with.

    I really like your site, and I have been using it to jolt my old memory gland. My primary pastime in ’75 was driving my old jeep to various mining sites, my favorite being big stamp mill somewhere around Freda. I used to stand on the stamp sand beach at the shore edge, and look back at the mill, a good 200 yards back. Now your pictures show the lake has taken that all away. Wow.

    If the old house is still there, a picture of it would be cool. I would love to someday see a report on here of you exploring the old pole line up in CC. it’s been 30yrs since I worked on it, who knows what it’s like now.

    This is a great site, please keep it going. Thank you very much.


  10. Scott? Coast Guard Scott from Alaska? With two daughters? Wow! This is crazy. The first person who left a message about this post was an old friend who moved away in middle school and hadn’t heard from since. I googled his name and we ened up in contact with one another. Now this. The internet makes the whole world just a little smaller. Interesting enough, my wife went to school with your oldest daughter and remembers her quite well. I guess they were friends… I don’t want to post my e-mail here but the webmaster has my e-mail addy and it would be great if he could pass it along to you ( hint, hint ;-)….wow….just wow. By the way, my parents still live in the same house.

  11. Oh, and by the way….I ended up working at Cedar Point for a couple summers while I was in college. Still love those coasters!

  12. Crawley! That’s it!! Been racking my brain trying to remember the last name. Well how are you and how has life been?

    Yep. Left there and went to Alaska, liked the CC so much that when I left Alaska I went back, and moved in next door to your family. Boy I could tell you how much I miss that place.

    Now, either it was you, or your brother, that put a little garter snake down my daughter’s shirt…..scared the daylites outta her and her mom. I remember you and you also had a brother about that time that was around sixteen, but was there one inbetween, or were you the snake boy? :)

    I often wonder how your Mom and Dad are doing. He always talked about buying a little land up there away from everything, but from what you say they never did. Still heating the house with wood and making his nightly run to the store?

    Isn’t the ‘net amazing sometimes? Please mention to your parents that I said hello and think of them and our lives there every once and a while.

    Ended up doing 30 years in the CG, just retired from them in 04.


  13. I have two different email addresses that I have used on this site, depending on whether I’m at home or work. If Mr Explorer could pass my address on also, it would be great.

    By the way Jay, That wife and the two girls and I parted ways, amicably. Don’t know where she is, but the daughter your wife went to school with, Melissa, is married and lives in a little town in Alaska. She married a boy named Scott but I haven’t heard from her in three or four years.


  14. Scott,
    It has been years, but we often wondered where you had went to after you left Lauruim. I was the older brother (snake boy) but to set the record straight, it was a copper belly ( harmless ) not a garter snake. And I really didnt mean to scare her…

  15. my mother was from laurium and father from hubble. we would visit our grandmother every summer. and being from detroit, you could imagine how excited we would be to get the heck out of the city. her house was on the corner of the main street in laurium. there was and probably still is a large billbord we would climb on when we were kids next to where the house stood. across from the retirement home, just down from a bar called smittys, it was joes bar before that. the bill board advertised bosh beer for many years then the calumet bank. do you have any pictures of this corner. also the cozy garden was on the corner across. now i believe 41 lumber is located there

  16. Mike – I’ve walked around Laurium quite a lot and I know the spot you talk of. I don’t know how long it’s been since you’ve been up here, but the billboard is still there (advertising a bank I think), as well as the bar across the street (now called Mickey’s) and the retirement home. Was your grandmother’s house on Hecla (which would but it behind the billboard) or on Lake Linden Ave (which puts the house next to the billboard, across the street from the retirement home)? The house that use to stand next to the billboard was torn down years ago, now only a split-level deal sits along that stretch. The house behind the billboard is still there though.

    As far as a picture I’ll put you on the waiting list and hopefully feature it soon…

  17. the house was on lake linden ave. it was white. i know the house is gone but it is not forgotten. the bi level was built by my uncle who sold it years later. my granfathers name was bob riely and his wfe was margret. my uncle built the superior motel and ran it for years it was across from the super value in laurium. . when i was a kid we would walk across the street to tebors and get cold bottles of pop and when i was legal it turned to beer! i think this is a very interesting site and plan to explore it regularly

  18. OK, so as I just saw the picture of the architectural detail of Laurium’s First National Bank building, it just occurred to me that I’m sitting on a chair which once furnished the chambers of the board of directors of the First National Bank of Laurium. We’ve got four of them; two in the den, one in the dining room, one out at the camp. They must be about a hundred years old, but they’re sturdy, and the leather upholstery is still in decent shape. Overall, these chairs display the same faded (but still graceful) elegance which Laurium’s First National Bank building exhibits.

  19. LOL “Ruin” is a bit melodramatic for describing the state of Laurium. Although its downtown is currently at a low point, the rest of the village is one of the most architecturally-sound areas in the Keweenaw.

  20. Stef – The use of “ruin” here is not literal, but metaphorical. What is in ruin is not the town itself (although the downtown is not in very good shape), but the Copper Country for which the town once represented. This was an place built by wealthy business owners, mine agents, and socialites. These millionaires of their day built opulent mansions (most of which still stand today in great shape) up and down wide, tree-lined streets. Its downtown was anchored with a pair of stoic and grand bank buildings – monuments to the wealth and prosperity of the Laurium class. Nearby a three story department store brought the latest fashions and modern conveniences to those willing to pay the exuberant prices.

    This was the prosperity of Laurium, and the definition of the Copper Country’s ruling class. Its a prosperity and a class of people that left the town when the mine’s died. While the Victorian Mansions still remain, the millionaires that built them are no longer living in them. And while the bank buildings still stand downtown, their rich vaults lie empty. That prosperity that the Copper Country once displayed and that lifestyle the socialites once enjoyed has been left in ruin.

    The architecturally rich residential streets of Laurium are some of the finest across the Keweenaw, as are some of the downtown buildings that remain. That is why I plan to feature these beauties in future posts, so readers can get a complete picture of the Laurium that was and is today. Stay tuned…

  21. I wanted to dig up some history of Laurium MI and ended up finding this site. My parents live in Laurium on Hancock ST and was curious to know more about the area since I am not too familiar with it. I grew up in the Houghton/Hancock area and even though I am currently living in Milwaukee, I still consider myself a Yooper. :) I just wanted to say that like others who have posted, I too, did not really notice the details in the images. I was up visiting my parents a few weeks ago, and even made a stop at the Yard Sale.. yet did not realize that it was once Montgomery Wards! I think what you have done with this site is fantastic and the pictures are great. Thank you for the info!

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