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.
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…