A Beautiful Failure

For all of the Copper Country’s copper richness, the difference between success and failure was often a matter of feet. A lode that proves extremely rich to one company can prove helplessly bare to another only a few hundred feet away. But the bombastic success of mines such as C&H and Quincy drove a highly speculative market, prompting an insane amount of investment in mines that had little chance of succeeding. No mine illustrated this concept as beautifully as the Arcadian. It was Standard Oil in fact – the oil dynasty run by Rockefeller himself – that developed the Arcadian Mine in 1898. With such a name like that behind the mine, investors saw little chance of failure. Soon over two and a half million dollars was raised (in 1898!) and the Arcadian Mine moved quickly into development.

Standard Oil spared no expense, constructing one of the largest and most impressive surface plants on the Keweenaw. A total of seven shafts were sunk simultaneously and at a dizzying pace. What C&H took 30 years to accomplish, Standard Oil was hoping to accomplish in less then 5. The Arcadian was so sure of the gold mine at their feet that not only was the mine built, but the nearby town of Arcadia as well (now known as Paavola) – complete with over 150 dwellings to house the more then 1100 workers toiling underground. Success was so guaranteed, in fact, that Mineral Range felt no hesitations in building over 3 miles of new line running up the hill from Pt. Mills Junction to the mine itself. It was all a beautiful sight – and a beautiful failure.

It was 5 years and over 7 million dollars later that the mine had to admit the truth. The ground beneath their feet was barren, and there would be no great profits to be had. The mine was shut down, terminating over a thousand jobs and erasing the town of Arcadia off the map. The company sold off everything they could in the hopes to at least pay their debts; they sold their stamp mill to the Centennial Mine (just like new!), they auctioned off their impressive machinery to the highest bidder, and even shipped their shaft houses out to the newly formed Trimountain mine. Because of this there is now very little left of the great Arcadian. All that remains of the shafts themselves are these stubby beams protruding out of the poor rock piles. Besides that – not much.

The remains of the Arcadian today are scattered across a half mile length of land atop Arcadian Hill. From this image you can make out the various rock piles of the shafts (2 large piles shown here, 1 more across the road to the south). You can also see the old Mineral Range line which served these shafts. This short spur branches off from the main Arcadian line which runs east-west about a mile north of here. Most of the poor rock from these shafts were hauled away as ballast for the runway at the airport, with only a small amount still left. There are only a few ruins of any interest left.

What you see most of are these protective fences around the old mine shafts. There were seven shafts around here somewhere four of which we managed to find on our explorations – all of them surrounded by these pipes and barbed wire. Some of the fences had fallen down, and today they mostly only serve to warn you of the nearby danger.

Here’s a closer look at one of these barriers. Not very good at keeping people out, but designed most likely to only warn. It was a warning we took seriously.

The most impressive structure still standing along the old Arcadian was this beauty. Amazingly we didn’t notice it until we were right on top of it. Its a large structure, about a story and a half in height. I’m not sure what it was, although there was a mine shaft nearby. At first we thought a hoist building, but there was no machinery mounts inside – only what looked to be a basement.

Whatever it was, you can get a great sense of just how sure the builders were that this mine would succeed. While most first generation buildings are built from wood, here they jumped straight to a more permanent and costly material. The quality is exceptional, the smoothness of the wall betraying very little haste.

Inside the building are some curious design details including these pieces of wood formed inside the rock wall. Probably some type of structural support, but I don’t know for what.

As with most mine site, we were able to find several remains of buildings housing steam engines of some type. These structures tend to stick around a little longer then all the rest, due mostly to their large concrete and brick foundations on which the large machinery once sat. We found at least three of these structures. One large one which is undoubtedly a hoist, and two smaller ones like this one.

Too small to hold a hoist (at least a hoist of the size most likely lavishly bought for this mine), this foundation probably housed a compressor engine for the drills. You can see the traditional red-brick surface and square holes in which the mounting bolts were housed. These are very similar in design to those used at North Kearsarge and Osceola.

Also similar to both North Kearsarge and Osceola: the Brush brick. We find these guys everywhere, must have been a very popular local brand.

We also found a great deal of smaller foundations scattered all about surface. If you look at the map above you can almost make out what appears to be a pair of cross streets, which lines up to where most of these ruins can be found. Some were obviously houses (offices probably), but the one shown above we think was the dry. It had a very long and narrow footprint, and a flat floor raised up from the ground. Similar to other dry ruins we have found other mine sites.

The scattered rock piles, foundations, and barb-wired fences are about all that’s left of this once multi-million dollar surface complex. Most everything was hauled away when the mine closed. There was however one large and impressive ruin still standing that gave a good impression of what once was here at Arcadia. We take a look at that tomorrow…

27 comments

  1. Sadly, I have heard that the current owner of the Arcadian Adit had it thoroughly closed up for some reason. I doubt that the Arcadian tour will ever re-open.

  2. Explorer wrote ” I know the mine was closed by at least 1999 since that is when I moved into an apartment just across the street from it in Ripley.”

    I can narrow it down a little bit. I took a tour of that mine sometime in 1990, and it was closed down for at least a couple of years before I moved out of the area in 1996.

  3. i gotthis brochure from a guy who found it from an old post office. its from the fiftys before 58. i looked this mine up to see if its still around , and as i read i see its not. would have loved to see this and take thebrochure to show. keep me posted if it re opens

  4. Grant…

    By all means. This site is meant as a place for everyone to share copper country history. Anyway I have administrative privileges (a perk that comes with the job) so If you go too crazy I can just do some deleting :)

  5. Grant Holmstrom

    There is also another article about the arcadian i could post it if u guys want me too.

  6. Grant Holmstrom

    Here’s some history on how the adit was made from the book in an article about ripley ” Our Hiawathaland ” ” Of great concern in an industrial way is the penetration by means of an adit of the hill north of the community. Here is taking place the only attempt to discover another copper mine in the Ripley district since much of the area was diamond drilled between 1880 and 1910. Work is going on under the supervision of the Cahodas- Paoli Comapny successor to the old Arcadian Mining Company which was first brought forth in 1864 (Maybe?) Rock now being taken from the tunnel is of a rich, green amygdaloid type with much quartz. Copper content is fair for the limited work on the property. The entire Copper Country hopes the venture succeeds. They are even now affectionately calling the tunnel “Little Homestake”
    This book was made in 1940 and there is also a picture include of the adit with the caption” The Adit of the Ripley Shaft of Cahodas- Paoli copper exploratory development program begun in Sept. 1939- the adit has shown some very encouraging evidences of Good copper deposits.”

  7. Grant Holmstrom

    Thats interesting to know what happened to it

  8. The Arcadian Adit is now owned by a MTU Assistant Prof., in the geology department. He purchased it from the Cohodas (sp?) family in MQT. We tried to open the adit back up for mine team practice when I was at Tech, however the school torpedoed us, this was after the school canceled the Quincy Lease. The tour operation I think was leasing the property from the family (I could be wrong).

    The current owner plugged the adit and burried it, most likely due to liability concerns… I’m not sure why he bought it though!

  9. Grant Holmstrom

    So the Quincy Mine and the Arcadian shared the communities of Mesnard Location, Paavola, and Concord City. Quincy had got the Pontiac and Mesnard in already 1896. How come Quincy didn’t take what was left of Arcadian mine if any thing was left, like those other companies did, they were practically neighbors?

    well i guess earlier Quincy wanted to buy land from the arcadian in 1906 to make more room for the No. 8 shaft, Quincy bid $500,000 for the deal but it ended up $750,000 for 800 acres because of the Arcadian shrewd owners. Quincy paid for the land by issuing 10,000 shares of stock for $70 a share.
    Quincy was on a roll acquiring land around the turn of the century.

  10. Grant Holmstrom

    here’s a discussion about the Arcadian on pasty.net

    http://www.copperrange.org/discus/messages/5/69.html?1047151532

  11. I’m not sure who owns the Arcadian now, if its still Quincy then I doubt they’d open it up. Its possible some other group might open it in the future, but it would take a great deal of money considering how long the place has been abandoned.

  12. They should think of opening up the Arcadian for tours up again, It would be good for another mine to open up for tours, the more the merrier.

  13. When I did Mt Bohemia several years ago, it was 5 bucks a person, fantastic view and ride.
    While I was up there though, I kept hearing what sounded like some kind of high pressure air being released. So when the brother and I went down, we went over by the marina and found something from the past dredging the harbor, a steam powered crane. Sure wish I had a video camera with, could have sat and listened to that all day. Had a heck of a time finding info on it, believe it was built in 1947.

  14. Herb,

    If you want some great shots of the fall colors, they do chair lift rides at Mt. Bohemia. No idea what it costs but I’ve seen some on Flickr and they’re spectacular.

  15. Herb from Wisconsin

    I wanted to go up Keweenaw this summer and do some snorkeling for underwater photos (that’s an angle you haven’t tried yet, explorer!), but it ain’t gonna happen. So now it will be in Sept. or early Oct. if at all, which is past fly time, a great relief, and when that exquisite autumnal look and feel begins to saturate the landscape and your own emotions. I have never been there in spring but imagine that is the best time for “ruining” because the leaves are gone and the snow has packed down the old grass and the surface contours show up nicely. Autumn, of course, is most beautiful and evocative of the spirits of the past.

  16. Also the black flies and mosquitoes are pretty much gone. When I went on vacation I tried to go in mid September because the fall color change was under way and the bugs were few and far between.

  17. … it also helps that in the fall, the thick foliage is mostly gone and it’s soooo much easier to find ruins. I really prefer hiking in the late fall and early spring before the new growth really starts. Summer is amazing, but the underbrush hides a lot.

  18. Herb…

    I love ruining in the fall – mostly because of that feeling you get that you so well described. The autumn air, the colors of the trees, the blue sky… it all makes for some great sights and photographs. I’m looking forward to this fall when I can try my new camera with the fall colors, I’m sure they’ll be much better then the pictures I got here.

  19. Herb from Wisconsin

    The photos of the old poor rock foundations amidst the autumnal colors at the Arcadia location give a good FEEL to what it’s like up there: haunted, ghostly, and sadly sweet.

    These random posts are addicting…

  20. Ross…

    I know that several later attempts were made to mine this lode – one of which resulted in the adit being opened up at Ripley (which later was used for tours). That same rock pile I saw as well, and am pretty sure it’s part of the Arcadian.

  21. I was looking at an aerial photo and noticed what appears to be an old rail grade extending south past Sunshine Rd and ending at a rock pile. http://www.geocities.com/rossnheather@sbcglobal.net/Arcadian.html Is this in fact an old grade and is the rock pile associated with the mine? Thanks.

  22. Forgot to post a link of the rock house image…

  23. Yeah, I’ve been a little busy lately since we recently moved downstate.

    We did make it up to the Keweenaw in August and did quite a bit of exploring. We wandered around the base of the cliff and found some remnants of the Cliff Mine. We also checked out the Tamarack, Osceola, and of course Centennial #3. I didn’t get to check out Cent. #6 because my wife had enough mines.

    We also took the Quincy tour again. I must say that the above ground portion of the tour is more interesting than the underground portion. I really wanted to check out the Adventure tour, but ran out of time. We ended up leaving a few days earlier than planned since the wind picked up and it got cold.

    I’ve got a LOT of pictures from the trip. I’ll send the better ones over when I get time. In the meanwhile there’s quite a few on my Flickr page…

    This one is a little strange. It’s a pic of the Cent. #3′s rock house. If you look in the middle of the picture there’s an angled piece of concrete. It’s actually a tunnel that leads towards the shaft (it’s at a 90 degree angle from the shaft).

  24. Jay your back! Glad to see the return of some of my regulars since my hiatus. I believe the Arcadian closed down when the adit at Quincy opened, since I think the two were ran by the same people. I know the mine was closed by at least 1999 since that is when I moved into an apartment just across the street from it in Ripley. It looked like it had been closed for some time at that point.

  25. Not historical, but I remember taking th Arcadian Mine tour a couple of times when I was a kid. I was pretty disappointed finding it closed on our trip up to the Keweenaw in 2004.

  26. Dag nab it. They almost always run north to south, so I had guessed. Thanks for the fix Dave, I changed the map accordingly.

    Looking more closely at arial imagery of the property I can make out 4 distinct rock piles. This accounts for only two shafts in the areas shown on my map (#3, and #4), with #2 sitting across the road and #1 closer down by the adit at Ripley. I was sure I saw three distinct fenced in areas (and thus three shafts), but it’s been over a year since I went out there so I could be mistaken.

    Either way thanks for the info!

  27. The Arcadian mine shafts were numbered from one to four. Number one was located at the far southwest corner of the property. The shafts ran northeast. The number four shaft was the farthest northeast shaft. The shafts are numbered the opposite of what you show on the picture of the old sight.

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