Shaft Family Portrait

Copper mining existed along the Keweenaw for almost 150 years (roughly between 1850 and 1995) During this time the technology, architecture, equipment, and environment changed significantly. The remains of the Mohawk #1 and its brothers represent the 2nd generation of Copper Mines on the Keweenaw. It was born from everything learned and lost by copper mines before it, and passed on that heritage to those mines that followed. This rockhouse’s unique design was a reaction to that heritage, and it was but a stepping stone to the lineage’s end result: the Kingston.

With the help of the Keweenaw Digital Archive courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, we present a portion of this family lineage in our Shaft Family Portrait. Enjoy…

The first shafts houses were small and weak, built from wood and rising only two to three stories above the ground. These buildings only served to cover the head frame, with no crushing or sorting to think of. Here is a shot from the Hecla mine, showing the elevated shaft house on the right and the engine house to the left. The shaft itself sat open and exposed to the elements to the right of the photo. The raised tramway connect to it served to remove the rock brought up from the mine to a centralized crushing plant – the first rockhouses.

Soon the idea of a centralized rockhouse was quickly replaced by a shaft-specific one, built near the shaft itself. The shaft also became covered by its own dedicated building, called a collar house. Pictured here is a Calumet Mine shaft (you can see the smokestack to the far right that is still standing near the school today) showing the loading area at its base, which had become necessary with the addition of the rockhouse.

With the new collar house / rock house combination, the distinction between the shaft and the rock-house began to blur. Soon not only the collar was covered, but also the skip road as well. Here is a structure from the South Kearsarge (maybe), showing how complex these buildings were becoming. If you look closely at the roof above the skip road, you can see the vents used to allow air to enter or leave the shaft.

While most shafts along the Keweenaw followed the dip of its lode, this shaft represents the half brother in the family. Tamarack #2 – pictured here – was completely vertical, requiring a new approach in shaft / rockhouse design. For the first time the collar house, rock house, and head-frame were all connected into one large building.

While other mines were built up and rebuilt as technology and methods changed, the shafts at Quincy seemed to have simply been added on to – multiple times. While looking a little makeshift, the blending of the shaft and rock house here at Quincy #6 represented the future.

The polished and revised generation came on the scene with the completion of the Quincy #2 shaft/rockhouse. A perfect combination of design and technology, the #2 survives today as a shinning example of copper country shaft design. As a bonus its made from steel, making it virtually fire proof.

Perhaps not an improvement, but the impressive North Kearsarge #1 made up for it in sheer size. Over 10 stories tall, this rock house was almost as tall as the ME-EM building at Michigan Tech. Also interesting here is how the hoist ropes must make an almost 180 degree turn back on itself to return to the hoist after leaving the shaft. (the hoist building is to the left)

By the time the mines were dying off, and the lineage had run its course, C&H took one last stab at making a better shaft / rock house. As the costs of mining began to soar, mine infrastructure needed to be done for cheap. The answer was minimalist, bleak, and pre-fabricated structures such as the Kingston (pictures here). There’s a reason the Centennial, Osceola, and Gratiot all looked like the Kingston. That’s because they were of the exact same design. Mass production claims yet another form of individualism.

Tomorrow: Hoist Rope to Nowhere…

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  1. I have some of the head frame shop drawings for the Centennial design, I would be more than happy to have them scaned and share them with you to put on the site, but I have to go home and get them, (I live in Az and the prints are in michigan) I also have osceloa hoist drawings and shaft sinking drawings for Centennial (including the shaft drill jumbo.) E-mail me if you would like electronic copies, I would like them to be shared online.

  2. After looking at this, I began wondering if a pic I took is what’s left of the Tamarack #2. It was right around the corner from the #3 shaft with the Ruth Ann memorial.

    BTW, I just realized there’s not much about Tamarack on here. Is pretty much everything gone (ruin-wise)?

  3. Jay,

    Other than the Ruth Ann memorial (it’s the #4, paired with the #3), a hoist ruin, and the fenced off “car art” #3 shaft, I don’t know of anything else at Tamarack. Does anyone know: are Tamarack #1 and #2 the same as Tamarack Jr.?

  4. Tamarack Jr. was up past Red Jacket Shaft Location, closer to Centennial Heights. Tamarack No. 1 and 2 sit between Oak and Spruce Street. The surface plants are owned by the Houghton County Road Commission (since 1928 incredibly). No. 3 and 4 are considered North Tamarack and are sitting to the north-west of Red Jacket Shaft Location. Tamarack No. 5 sits on the north-west corner of Tamarack Waterworks road and M203.

    There is some ruins left of these shafts, but after C&H bought the Tamarack out they basically abandoned everything but the No. 5 (which was Tamaracks money-maker). Ruins of the No. 5 can be seen along both M203 and Tamarack Waterworks road. The road commission owns the rest of the ruins.

  5. Is that the buidling with the sheave wheel leaning up against it as you come into town on M-203?

  6. The building that currently sits at the site today is a pump house, placed above the shaft itself by C&H when it bought out the Tamarack. The No. 5 was chiefly used by C&H to drain the lower workings of the conglomerate, pumping the water out into the surrounding wetlands.

    If you take the turn onto Tamarack Waterworks Road you can also see the remains of the No.5’s smokestacks along the road, which are now on their sides in the grass.