The Churches of Calumet

St. Anthony’s Church, one of six Catholic Parishes in Calumet

The Keweenaw Peninsula attracted immigrants from all across the globe who were looking for their own piece of the American Dream in the deep underground of the Copper Country. Once they arrived, these immigrants found themselves in a world in which they neither spoke the language or understood the customs. By necessity they sought out others like themselves who shared their language and customs and in the process created a small piece of their homeland here in the Copper Country. For many this piece of home could be found in the pews of their church.

In the Copper Country’s infancy people would simply congregate in a person’s home to worship, but as their numbers grew they would pool their resources to construct a dedicated building for services. In the beginning these churches would be strictly denominational, resulting generally in the construction of a Catholic and Protestant church. As ethnic groups began to grow in number, they would have broken away from these multi-ethnic congregations to build their own church. This meant that now several Catholic and Protestant churches would be built at a mining location – each catering to a specific ethnic group. No where can this phenomenon be more clearly noted then at Calumet.

At its prime Calumet and the surrounding communities would boast over 30 individual churches – six separate Catholic parishes alone. More so than anywhere else in the Keweenaw, the Calumet region was highly benevolent towards the church. C&H believed strongly in the notion of a better worker through the practice of faith. The company was highly charitable when it came to the establishment of churches, providing free land and materials for their construction. In some cases they would even supply an architect to help design them. In C&H’s eyes there could never be too many churches in Calumet, and even today the city boasts more then any other city along the range.

By 1907 the Catholic population of Calumet exceeded 13,000 – spread out over six individual parishes. The largest of these was the Slovenian delegation which built the impressive twin-spired St. Joseph Church to house its nearly 3,000 parishioners. The Slovenians were from a region of Austria and the church was often referred to as the “Austrian Church” by residents. Today the church still stands, and has been re-christened St. Paul’s.

Sitting up one block from St. Joseph’s were two more Catholic Churches. St. Anthony’s catered to the region’s 1,200 Polish immigrants while across the street St. John the Baptist was home to 2,400. St. John’s as seen above was destroyed by fire and replaced by the current brick structure that stands today. St. Anthony’s no longer stands, but its original rectory currently serves as a private residence.

Sitting on the other side of the tracks is St. Mary’s, which was one home to the regions Italian parishioners – some 2,800 strong. This church still stands, but has been abandoned for some time now.

As testament to the region’s diversity stands St. Anne’s Church – built for the city’s 2,000 strong French-Canadian population. The heavily Gothic inspired church still stands today at the head of 5th Street, and has become the villages most prominent landmark. It currently serves as home to the Keweenaw Heritage Center.

The region’s last Catholic church is the Sacred Heart Parish – which catered to the remainder of the regions Catholics (1,700 or so). This church sat far outside the town of Red Jacket in Hecla Location. The sandstone structure seen here was destroyed by fire and replaced with the modern looking church that can be seen today. It is still an active church.

In second largest denomination in the Calumet of old was the Lutheran faith, which was heavily influence by the area’s high numbers of Finnish immigrants. The first Finnish church was the National Lutheran Church (seen in the photo above), which was part of Finland’s government sanctioned church. Schisms within the church prompted the establishment of the Apostolic Lutheran Church on Pine Street and then later the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church just down the road. All three churches are still standing, but only the Finnish National is still being used as a church (without the “Finnish” attached to the name). Over the years the church has lost its steeple.

Lutheran churches were also established by other Scandinavian groups, including the Swedish and Norwegian. The Swedish Church was built within “Temple Square” – a bloc of land set aside by C&H for the construction of churches. It remains standing to this day (the sandstone church along 6th street) but is no longer used as a church. The Norwegian Lutheran Church was built on the corner of 7th and Elm Streets (as seen in the photo above) and is also still standing. However the years have not been kind, and the church as lost its steeple and suffered major water damage inside. However, the building is currently undergoing rehabilitation efforts in the hopes to return it to its former glory.

One final Lutheran Church is the Bethlehem Church, which was a wood framed church that once sat along Agent Street in Hecla Location. It is no longer standing.

The scandinavian groups contributed to even more churches to the city, including the Swedish Methodist seen along 6th Street in the above photo. This church was tucked in next to the Red Jacket Fire Hall, and would have stood in the adjacent parking lot. There was also a Norwegian Methodist as well, which one sat along 8th Street. It is also no longer standing.

A third Methodist Church was built to serve I believe Cornish Methodists. It sat at the corner of Calumet Ave (US41) and Church Streets, and is most likely the reason for the roads name. This wood structure seen here was destroyed by fire and replaced by a brick structure which stands on the site today. Within the last decade this building underwent a major rehabilitation effort and is currently once again serving as a church.

There was also a collection of non-ethnic churches. These were denominations that had too few parishioners to allow for ethnic splits and often catered to several ethnicities at once. This included a the Calumet Congregational Church seen in the photo above – which once sat on the corner of Red Jacket and Calumet Ave (US41). This church burned down and was never rebuilt. Two other small churches shared Temple Square with the Swedish Methodist, including the Christ Episcopal and First Presbyterian. Both churches still stand are continue to serve as churches to this day.

With this small overview now complete, lets take a closer look at a few of these churches as they appear today, starting with St. Joseph’s….

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  1. When we were there in ’07, St. Mary’s was for sale. It looked like it was in pretty rough shape, but it’s definitely a very cool old building.

  2. Still for sale, I think — with a “big corner lot” (or so says the sign on the side of the building). I’m not sure who would buy a huge church and lot in Calumet, though, other than a historical society with a bunch of spare change.

  3. Wrong church guys. The one your all thinking about – the one with the big corner lot – is the Swedish Lutheran. That church sits at the south end of 6th street. St. Mary’s is down at the west end of Scott Street just past the railroad tracks. Both are made from sandstone but St. Mary’s stained glass is still intact. Swedish Lutheran has its front steps chopped off.

    But I can see the confusion. The Swedish Church is the only non-catholic church made out of sandstone. It looks like it should be catholic I’ll admit.

  4. Ok, I’m lost here, the church for sale at the end of 6th St, The sign is still there, saw it when I was in da UP last week. But on the map its called the Carmel Evangelical Lutheran, is that the same as the Swedish Lutheran?

  5. Pioneer Poles of Calumet…
    You guys have a great site there, keep it up. There’s a horrible lack of on-line presence for Keweenaw history and culture resources and yours is greatly needed and a great addition. (I apologize for your comment getting blocked by my spam filter, I just now found it)