CalumetCalumet & Hecla MineCopper Country

An Architectural Beauty

A Look at the C&H General Office Building

By the 1880s it had become apparent that the Calumet and Hecla Mine had become the region’s most dominating company – impressive in both the size and scope of its operations across the peninsula. While its laborers toiled away under the earth and within the mine’s shops and mills, the company’s upper echelon of workers resided within a work environment a bit more civilized – the General Office Building. Located within the center of the mine’s sprawling surface plant – right at the corner of Red Jacket Road and Calumet Ave (now US41) – the building housed the mine’s white color workforce – staff such as its superintendent, managers, engineers, geologists, drafters, and bookkeepers. Additionally the building served as the main payroll office and as such was a weekly destination for the majority of the company’s workforce.

Such a pedestrian purpose contrasts sharply with the impressive masonry structure that C&H erected – a calico-faced beauty that looks more fitting as a seat of government or other grand public use than as a simple office building. It’s a building that grabs your attention almost immediately as you pass, forcing you to slow down or even stop to take a better look. Ironically the rubble rock construction that gives the building its regal appearance was a decision made not to make an impression but instead to keep the building’s cost more manageable. At the time of the building’s construction brick was not a local commodity, and as such would have to be imported in from afar at great cost. Poor rock however – the material which makes up the building’s calico walls – was a waste product of the mine itself and could be found dumped into waste piles all across the surrounding landscape.

When built in 1887 the building was far smaller, consisting only of the north-south wing built back on the lot’s backside. However as C&H grew and prospered in the decades that followed, the mine’s office building needed to grow and expand as well. Before all was said and done the building would more than double in size as a whole new east-west wing was erected and an expanded pay-shed was added to the north facade. The structure was continue to serve the mine for over 80 years until the company called it quits in the late 60’s. After that it would become home to a doctor’s office, a role that greatly altered the building’s interior and layout. Another thirty years would pass until the structure changed hands yet again – this time transitioning into its modern role as the headquarters of the Keweenaw National Historical Park.



—ccexplorer

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Discussion

  1. I’d love to see an inside view of the building! I’m also glad that the huge windows are still there, not replaced with smaller ones. Way too many buildings here have been disfigured by tiny windows filling in huge window openings. I understand why, of course, but they just look awful.

  2. I’d love to see the inside of this building too! Too bad you couldn’t make this part of a CCE get together for 2011! Just a thought.

  3. Hoaglund’s “Mine Towns” talks about the construction of the office building and notes that at the time of its building, it was not seen as architecturally pleasing. I agree with you however, and find it to be one of the more appealing buildings in the district.

  4. This building is a masterpiece.This building and the one across form the Quincy Mine with the fallout shelter signs are two of my favorites.

  5. I was in this building this summer on my Mine tour, I only saw the lobby and bathrooms, but it was very nice on the inside, wonderful woodwork and tall ceilings. And yes, it is the NPS office building, we talked to the Ranger there for a little while and he pulled out some photo albums with some pretty nice photos in it.

  6. guess reason calumet high school has big old windows must be for lighting also–even basement that had wood and machine shops–note richard–boss–simonson was machine shop teacher–never went college –was a journeyman machinist–only was trained for that work—-at that time you had woodshop for freshman yr with industrial course–we had mr light–ben Holman was for last 3 yrs of woodshop-mr pope was drafting teacher —I was student 1950-54–walt kitty just started around that time–coach bob lockwood was drafted back into army for korean war–joe mischica was asst yet for freshmen— just little history again–tony

  7. I seem to remember as a young boy going with my mother on Fridays to the “pay office”. If I’m remembering correctly, it was in that part of the building that extends towards the high school and the Misco. I remember it being a very very busy place. This would have been in the very early 50’s while my father and uncle worked at Allouez No 3.
    Martin Bacher

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