A Look Into the Past…

Now that our exploration of the Stella Cheese Factory is complete, its time to take a step back and look at all that we have discovered. After exploring nearly a dozen rooms of these vast ruins I feel I can make an educated guess on just how the building was once laid out and how it might have looked in its youth. Luckily a great deal of the structure still stands, making the task a tad bit easier. But some details are scantly evident on the ground, and I had to make some leaps of faith here and there. My artistic interpretation is shown above.

The building is essentially built out of two parts. The first is the two existing Baltic Mine structures that Stella incorporated into its design. These are the gabled roof sections of the building, one to the north and another set inside the complex. The other parts consist of flat roofed additions expertly grafted onto those existing buildings. The result is a odd mix of styles and forms.

To get a better idea of how the interior rooms related to its exterior, I’ve now added several labels to the drawing pointing out specific rooms. During our exploration we entered the complex from a opening in the south wall into the Machinery Room (or Storage Room as I have also called it). As I have stated before most of these rooms are still standing, with two notable exceptions. The first is a small room attached to the south wall of the Machinery room – labeled as the South Addition in the drawing. There is only some remains of the outer walls left. The Shipping / Receiving room to the west (upper left) sits mostly in ruins as well.

A few more elevations for your consideration:

The building’s south elevation. The complex sits along a hillside and as such is taller on the east (right) side then on the west (left). The hill cuts the complex on the diagonal, leaving the Cheese Room on the ground floor when it reality it sits on the second in relation to the Machinery Room and Vat Rooms No. 1/2.

With this East Elevation we can appreciate the two to three story facades on the bottom of the hill. As far as the South Addition goes, the sloped roof is a guess. Since there doesn’t seem to be any remains of a concrete roof, I assume that that section of the complex had a timber roof. Such a roof would have to be pitched to some degree to keep snow off.

Also evident on this elevation is the North Building, which is for the most part separate from the rest of the complex. The only thing connected the two is a narrow hallway and two small rooms which I believe were used for curing.

The West Elevation clearly illustrates the effect of the hill on the building’s design. While the East Elevation features two-story facades, here they are only a single story in height. This side features a large shipping / receiving area which is only partially intact today. The placement of the loading dock is a guess.

Now a look inside the complex:

Though I have included rough floor plans in the course of this series, those were not entirely accurate. Here are a set of more accurate plans, the one above representing the lower floors of the building. The large room to the south-east (upper right) is the two-story machinery room in which we first entered the complex. Moving from there we then entered Vat Room No. 1, followed by Vat Room No. 2. To the west (bottom) of the smokestack sits the boiler room protected by a steel door on its north wall.

A good portion of the upper level is in fact the ground level as viewed from the west. The largest room here is the Cheese Room, which sits in the center. To the east of that room sits Vat Room No. 3 followed by Vat Room No. 4. The Machinery Room is open to the second level, with several windows along the vat rooms looking down onto it. To the west (bottom) a small stairway leads up to an upper hallway sitting along the Cheese Room. The hallway accesses several rooms including a walk-in cooler and what we believe to be the Wax Room. At the very bottom is the shipping room and to the north (left) is that second building complete with connecting hallway. (note: a portion of the Cheese Room’s walls were removed to allow for the accompanying key in the illustration)

Of course knowing the layout and general look of the complex, the next questions deal with its construction. We know that there are parts of the building that were once Baltic mine buildings, but which parts? I’ll tackle that next….

NOTICE: The Stella Cheese Factory ruins are on private property and are NOT open to the public. Please keep out!

5 comments

  1. Hi all,

    Just came back from a trip to the U.P. First time back in 25 years. I used to live in Baltic. My grandfather worked at the Stella Cheese factory. He would often take me for walks down there and tell me all about the factory. I think most of your descriptions are correct from what I can remember of our conversations. I spent many hours myself exploring the area when I was a kid. I love this website, it not only brings back great memories, but it is very informative. Keep up the great work!

  2. For some unknown reason I never explored that north building during my time at the site, so I had to rely on my images from our previous winter visit. Because of that I missed those small walls. Turns out, in fact, that there was indeed a room on that north-east corner, but it was attached to the outside of the old dry house that the north building once was. Sanborn maps of the plant that I have just recently discovered show that room to be a storage room, and a large one at that.

    Speaking of the Sanborn map, it turns out my architectural guesswork on this post was a little off – but not too badly. When I get the time I’ll post the official plans of the plant and do some compare/contrast to what I saw on the ground.

  3. I think the north building may have extended farther east than indicated in the drawings. There are short walls along the north east corner of the building that still remain, which would create quite a big room.

  4. Offices.. how about bathrooms! I’m guessing that the administrative wing of the factory was over on the northern building, since I’m not sure what else would be over there. (O is also a good guess though, I’m with you on that one. )

  5. Very cool, Mike. I like it!

    I’ll guess that some of the unknown rooms may have been offices — there must have been at least one office, somewhere, in this whole complex. Perhaps N or O.

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