It may have been Mr. Finnegan that gave birth to the community of Copper City, but it was Edward Ulseth that built the town from the ground up – literally. Ulseth was the region’s premier contractor, having been responsible for the erection of over 500 buildings and houses scattered about the region. His celebrated work included the interiors of both the Calumet Theatre and the Red Jacket Fire Hall. In 1907 he turned his incredible talents to Copper City, building over 95 houses in the budding town in just three years. Along with its houses, Ulseth also had a role in building most of the city’s commercial buildings.
In the beginning Copper City was only a few blocks in width, running from about Osceola to Mohawk streets. At that point the city’s commercial district aligned itself along the Allouez Street, which at the time was the main road out towards the Ahmeek Mine (now abandoned) and was also home to the city’s passenger depot. Those early businesses included two saloons and a meat market – two of which continue to stand today. Though neither continues to be in business.
This old building is marked on Sanborn maps as “Grocery and Meats” with a smokehouse out back. It could have once been the Copper City Meat Market, part of a chain of stores found in the Copper County region (known collectively as Peninsula Meat Markets).
The Copper Country Meat Market was famous for being the earlier employer of Mr. Stimac, who would later go on to take over ownership of the nearby Bennetts Department Store. The building is relatively plain, but does feature a prominent cornice and a dentil frieze.
Originally Copper City had two saloons, but today only one remains standing. This old building was more recently known as Stimac’s Music Land Bar (yes those same Stimac’s, they must have been very prominent in the town). The building’s original identity is much more interesting, having been built by the Bosch Brewing Company to sell its locally brewed confections.
As the city matured and grew its layout changed once again. The city’s first street and home to its hotel – Osceola – was systematically abandoned. Allouez Streets once vibrant connection to the nearby Ahmeek Mine was cut off and moved over one block to the neighboring Ahmeek Street (which fit better anyway). The old commercial thoroughfare was now a dead end, and businesses moved a block over to the newly minted business district along Ahmeek.
Besides the Bennetts Department Store, Ahmeek Street also became home to Erlandson’s Grocery. Opened in 1908 by Allan and John Erlandson, it served the community for nearly three-quarters of a century. In the 1920′s the stores prime spot along one of the city’s main roads prompted the Erlandson’s to add a Standard Service gas station and garage.
A large portion of Copper City was for a long time taken up by the sprawling facilities of the Copper City Lumber and Fuel Company. The facility included a office building, several warehouses, a block-long lumber shed and a rather large coal shed sitting over a portion of 2nd and Seneca Streets. Though none of these old structures remain today, the old Keweenaw Central right-of-way that once fed the facility can still be seen. Within town the Keweenaw Central mainline was joined by a siding and two spurs which fed the Lumber and Fuel Company. Today all three lines have been long ago torn up and salvaged, with only the old right of way faintly visible running through the center of town.
Information for this series obtained from “The Settling of Copper City Michigan” by Clarence Monette