For the most part the majority of the Keweenaw Peninsula was owned by mine companies, land acquired for either its mineral or lumber riches. For those mines with good fortune – such as C&H or Quincy – these lands were often converted into company housing and rented out to their workers. For the less fortunate companies their lands were often divided up into parcels and sold off to local farmers or land developers. In the case of the ill fated Whealkate Mine, which bought up large plots of land in and around South Range, their substantial land holdings were platted into the village of South Range, and some of the outlying parcels were converted to farm land. The remnants of one of these old homesteads still stands along the lower slopes of the mountain today – a ruin we explored recently during a snowshoe trip to the area.
The old house sat alone at the end of an open field in the shadow of the mountain. The field was sprinkled with old apple trees and several clumps of Lombardy Poplars – both non-native trees that are indicative of a human settlement. We walked down what seemed to be an old road out to the remains for a closer look.
The house was not in great shape. A covered porch which once graced the front of the building ad collapsed, and a large section of its east wall was missing allowing us to peer straight inside. But even with the destruction, the buildings green painted trim still show vibrantly around the windows and eaves.
A closer look at the house’s construction reveals a building that was built to last, and apparently did just that. Instead of a more modern wood-frame approach, this house was built using what appeared to be thick old-growth timbers, complete with dove-tailed joints at the corners. This all pointed to a rather old structure, and it at least dates to before 1919, since it appears on an old topo map I have.
Inside the building appeared to have two main rooms, a living area in front which you can see here and a back kitchen area. A stairway sits in the front (just to the right in the above photo) which leads up to a trio of rooms upstairs. This was as far in as we were willing to venture, considering large sections of the floor had already collapsed into the basement.
With an interior tour out of the question, we turned to leave but where stopped by the site of something peculiar peeking at us from a tree-covered ridge several hundred feet behind the house. It looks like an out-building of some sort, built directly into the hillside. We went off to investigate.
A closer look only reinforced our earlier perceptions. It was a small building which had been built into the side of the hill. It featured a field-stone foundation, on top of which was erected a wood sheathed stepped-roof building. Though it featured a window on its upper roof-line, we doubted it was designed for human occupancy.
Peering deeper into its dark bowels we found little more then a few collapsed (and evidently burnt) timbers and a great deal of debris. This was all not a good sign for venturing in so we refrained from doing so. But from what we could see I was sure this was simply a root cellar – albeit a large and impressive one.