East Hancock

At the beginning Hancock found itself blocked in by all sides by mine property – severely limited the scope of the city’s footprint. To the north sat the Quincy Mine, while to the west stood the Hancock Mine, its mill, and a tramway connecting the two. Over to the east the city bumped up against a natural ravine in which the Quincy Mine had its own tramway, feeding the company’s original stamp mill down where the current Ramada Inn sits today. As the city grew, however, it found itself in need of more space. Towards that end the city’s master – Quincy – was forced to platt out new neighborhoods outside the city’s original platt.  Known as “additions” these new neighborhoods had names such as Hillside, Condon, and Grove. By 1880 high demand had forced Quincy to platt out yet another neighborhood – this time on empty land sitting just on the other side of that deep ravine it was using to transport its mill product.  The area was known at the time as the Quincy Addition, but is known today as East Hancock.


Due to the deep ravine along Reservation Street (seen to the left of the archive photo above), the new neighborhood was geographically isolated from the rest of the town. Buffered from the rest of the city’s population, East Hancock could only be entered from one of two narrow bridges which crossed the ravine. These unique conditions created one of the area’s first “gated communities”, and as such would attract Hancock’s upper class who looked to isolate themselves far from the hustle and bustle of the town.  By the time the new century had dawned, East Hancock had been filled with line after line of opulent houses – homes of the region’s rich and famous in the same vein as Laurium and East Hancock.


Between 1880 and 1900 – when most of the East Hancock Neighborhood was built up – the prevalent popular architectural style was an americanized “Queen Anne Style”. These houses featured asymmetric facades, polygonal towers, covered porches, dominant front facing gables, bright colors, and busy shingle work and wood details. This was the same style prevalent in the construction in Laurium’s high class neighborhoods as well. Today these houses are usually referred to as Victorian, though most were built at the very end of the Victorian Period (which was between 1840-1900). The Victorian seen above sits at the east end of Harris Street, and was home to Captain Thomas Dennis, who lived here with his wife and two children.


Next door to the Dennis House sits another Victorian, this one featuring a rather unique rounded front porch. This was once home to Charles Lewis, proprietor of the local office of the Grand Union Tea Company, a national tea and spice company based out of New York.


Besides the large collection of wood framed Queen Anne Style houses, there is also a large amount of masonry houses in the neighborhood such as the brick and sandstone monstrosity seen above. Sitting along the edge of the ravine at the corner of Harris and Cooper Streets this old home had a rather prestigious and visible position, one that demanded such an impressive home as this. Greatly assisting its impressive character is the massive two-story portico gracing the building’s front facade – a portico that use to wrap around the west (left) facade of the building as well. This was the home of one of Hancock’s most prominent citizens – Phillip Carroll, one of the four brothers responsible for the Carroll Foundry empire. Phillip would become superintendent of his family’s foundry after its move across the pond to Houghton.


Another impressive masonry home can be seen further down the street – this one predominantly built of brick with sandstone highlights. Those sandstone highlights include some incredible quoin details at the home’s corners.


Unlike the more conservative and uniform home designs found in other elite neighborhoods of the Copper Country, East Hancock features quite the diverse array of home designs and styles. Above we find something a bit more classically inspired – perhaps even Federalist in concept. The brick homes most impressive feature is its sprawling front porch, covered only on its corners thanks to a pair of column supported pediments.


A block further up the hill along neighboring Mason Ave we find yet another impressive example of unique architecture. This one is a more modern addition to the landscape, its more Arts and Crafts design attributes setting itself apart from its more Victorian neighbors. The smooth-faced sandstone retaining wall complete with sandstone planting urns is a great touch. This unique house was home to Hans Leibert, a prominent Hancock architect who designed and built this house in 1907 as his own private abode. He would late vacate the home – and the area – around 1912.

Those property retaining walls fronting the Leibert house are quite common in East Hancock, as its steep typography often meant the home were placed atop terraced plateaus cut into the hillside. These terraced levels also made for some interesting and creative landscaping – an example of which can be seen below:


Here a home’s large lot is set into several terraces separated artistically crafted river-stone walls.


Making its way up into those gardens is this formal stairway, flanked by more river-rock walls, some concrete railings, and even a small alcove that may have once housed a piece of art or even a fountain.


Making our way down the hillside to East Hancock’s southern most border, the hillside transforms into a steep bluff tumbling down towards the water. Thus the homes on this side of the neighborhood have the best views of them all – their tall perches allowing for panoramic vistas out across the Portage and the streets of Houghton beyond. This commanding views demanded higher costs, and as such this area of town became home to the richest of the rich and the most famous of the famous. One of those men was John Hicok – treasurer of the Hancock Mining Company and president of the Portage Coal and Dock Company. Mr. Hicok built himself a two story home with a sandstone first floor and a stucco upper floor framed with sandstone pillasters.


Up the road we have a more subdued home, a two story brick house topped by a clapboard sided second floor. This was the home of James Close, part owner of the Hancock based wholesaler Close and Hodgson, who owned and operated a series of warehouses and shipping docks along Hancock’s waterfront. Mr. Close was also the bookkeeper for Hancock’s First National Bank which gave him quite some prominence in the city.


Down the road we find yet another incredibly scaled home – complete with a somewhat overbearing front portico supported by a line of massive greek columns.  This is the Kauth House, owner of a very popular upscale saloon in Hancock. Mr. Kauth laid the foundation to this massive building several years ahead of time, to allow it to “settle” apparently.


Today East Hancock continues to be just at isolated as it had been a century before, though the old ravine separating it from town has since been filled in. Most people entering Hancock pass by this old neighborhood far too fast to even notice it, its grand homes set high up out of view along a tree-shrouded hillside. Unlike College Ave – which sits right along a major thoroughfare – Hancock’s easternmost neighborhood sits off the beaten path far from most visitors eyes. However for those willing to take a slight detour from their course, a gem of a neighborhood awaits lined with some of the most impressive and grandest homes to be found in all the Copper Country hidden just outside Hancock’s Main Street.

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  1. No , the cog rail train runs down the hill to the east of the original incline. The original incline started just to the west of the where the Quincy Roundhouse is now. It ran straight down the hill and down into the ravine and out to the stamp mill on portage lake, which sat just to the north-west of where the Ramada Inn is now. (The sandstone building along the hillside behind the ramada is the old Pump House for the mill – it now is home to a motorsports dealer)

    To help illustrate I’ve included a map…

  2. I was born and raised on the West side of Hancock, but had friends and some family who lived on the East side. Thank you so much for giving me a tour of these beautiful homes! When you live almost 1500 miles away, it’s hard to get back and see everyone and everything that you want to see. Can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed seeing these homes and other posts from the area. Keep them coming! Any book idea’s in the future? Thanks again!

  3. I loved looking at all these old homes. The last one was my grandparents home. My mom grew up in that house and it was built by her grandfather in the late 1800’s. Brings back a lot of memories. Thank you.

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