LocationsTamarack Location

Tamarack – Then & Now (p2)

Tamarack Location – like most mining locations – was physically separated into distinct neighborhoods based on economic and social class. The community’s upper class – mine managers and captains – resided along Second Street at the base of the hill. The middle class lived in relatively large single family residences up atop the hill. The luckiest of the lowest class – most likely workers of desirable lineage – resided in very small single family residences on the other side of the railroad tracks. Those unluckiest enough to belong to the lowest class would be stuffed into small log cabins or share multi-family houses packed tightly together on the extreme edges of the community. And at the center of it all was the twin rock-houses of the mine itself, which stood tall at the base of the hill.

Taking another look at that high-res image I introduced last week you can clearly make out each of those layers. At the forefront are hose upper class homes, with the generous sized yards. Atop of the hill you can make our a row of middle class homes, followed by line after line of relatively minuscule lower class housing. And smack dab in the center of it all is the mine itself, at least a representative of it.

The large two story structure is only labeled as “Tamarack Mining Company” on Sanborn maps, but I’m pretty sure that its specific purpose is that of a warehouse. Along its front facade are a pair of large loading doors on the first floor and a large earthen approach accesses the second floor on its northern (right) end. Since there isn’t any direct rail access to the building, I would guess that it wasn’t used to store copper but most likely general mine supplies instead. After some thought I suppose it’s also possible that this particular building could have also been used as a stable, though its seems rather large for that.

Today the old warehouse no longer exists, and the entire plot of land on which it stood is nothing but an overgrown field. But you can still find that small road that can be seen running in front of the building, now used as an alleyway by the current residents. The warehouse would have sat on the left side of the road about half way down its length.

Moving past that alleyway we made our way to Third Street, which made its way south to north along the crest of the hill just above the old warehouse. This street was home to what I consider the community’s compliment of more middle class housing – larger single family homes most likely reserved for workers of a more prestigious lineage or job title. Though not labeled as such, I believe the old archive image above is of that very same street, taken from the vantage point of the hospital.

Our current vantage point from the corner of Third and Beech – the location of the old hospital’s nurses residence – offered no such view as shown in that old archive image. Instead the road was rather devoid of home and looking back south towards the old school we could only make out a faint trail where the road once traveled (up the hill towards those line of trees in the background). Originally Third Street would continue on past the old school before turning west and looping around the outskirts of the hill. Today that entire section of road is only a overgrown two-track.

Most of Third Street’s compliment of homes are no longer standing, with only a few rather decrepit looking samples still standing. By for the most intact home home along the street was this red beauty at the corner of Cedar Street. A shining example of what I consider “middle class housing”, this particularly large house features an unique squared off oriel on its first floor – something not indicative of home built for a common worker. Though the house looks to have been added on to over the years, turns out that the only major changes to the home is the removal of its front porch in favor of a small covered entranceway.

Here’s that same house as it looked back near the turn of the century, or at least the top of it (its the white arrow on the left). Originally the house had a few neighbors, none of which are still standing today. But the house isn’t quite along up there on top of the hill, there’s still a few more homes standing about. One of particular interest is also marked on the photo above (the arrow on the right) and might be even more interesting then the red house we just visited. But first we have to make our way there…

Heading towards that second house we had to first make our way through a rather desolate and open landscape. A century ago there would have been over a dozen homes residing within the photo above, all of which have succumbed to history. The lone house seen in the photo is a more recent addition.

At the next corner (Cedar and Fourth) we find some glimmers of old Tamarack, but they are far and in between. The road continues on for five more blocks (!), but only the houses seen in the shot above continue to call it home. A century ago Cedar Street was home to over 36 addresses – today only 4.

But a look down Fourth Street’s northern end offers something a bit more promising. At the end of the street sits two homes that hail back to Tamarack’s genesis more than a century ago. While one of those houses has been modernized with vinyl siding and new windows, the other has remained true to its original self.

From the street this particular home sure does appear to be built out of square hewn logs, which would make it one of Tamarack’s earliest houses. Often mine companies would build their first compliment of worker housing out of logs, using the trees cleared from the mine site. Later as a mine’s surface plant was built and a proper saw mill was erected, worker housing would be built out of lumber instead. However, the placement of this particular log house so far from the mine itself would seem to contradict that fact. (You would think the oldest homes would be located closer to the mine, perhaps along Second or Third Streets. Instead we have lumber framed homes along those streets) But then again considering this part of Tamarack would technically be for the lowest class of worker, its possible that the mine built the simplest homes for them.

Leaving the old log house behind, we headed back to the mine along Oak Street. Along the way we paused to take the shot above of a line of poplars up on the hill. These straight and narrow trees are non-native to the region and are a sign of human development. This particular line sits atop land that was once home to the community’s only place of worship – the Tamarack Methodist Church.

Here’s that church in its prime, sitting in a place of prominence high atop Tamarack Hill’s highest point. Sitting next door was the church’s rectory. Both buildings no longer exist, and since the land on which they once stood is clearly marked as private I wasn’t able to walk up and look for any ruins of either. All I could see from the road was that line of trees.

Continuing on from the old church location we started our descent down the hill towards the mine itself. Along the way we passed another lone house sitting alongside Oak Street. This particular model looked to be a duplex considering the most obvious split identity on its front facade. Turns out this house is original to the community as well…

In our high-res image of the village we can also see that duplex, though from that angle we’re looking at it in profile. Even though it was a duplex (considered lower class housing I would assume compared to single family residences), it was sure a large and nice looking duplex. In 1917 the house’s west side was occupied by Ms. Alice Madigan, a clerk at Calumet’s Woolworth’s Store. The building’s east side (seen in the photo above) was occupied by the rather large Cane Family, whose six adult members (and who knows how many kids) all worked for the Tamarack Mining company in various capacities.

Moving on we made our way back down to the bottom of the hill. Crossing onto Second Street we had officially left the community’s lower and middle class region behind and entered Tamarack’s upper class district. Here, unlike the rest of the town, almost all the old houses continued to stand. A benefit of a higher class status I assume…

To Be Continued…

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  1. Its an optical trick caused by blurring both the background and foreground of the picture. I also adjust the contrast of the subject (usually darkening it) while leaving the background a tad bit overexposed. As a result the subject seems to jump off from the background, just it was in 3D.

  2. Allen,
    Alison K. Hoagland’s book MINE TOWNS is one of the best to come out in recent years. She does a great job of describing the housing and the rationale behind who got what type of house. The log houses usually were meant for the lowest paid workers, this also meant they were located farther out. Remember, this was an era when one walked to work, so if you were low in the pecking order, you got a cheap house and a longer walk – if you got a company house at all. Actually, the log houses were naturally better insulated and some higher seniority workers preferred the lower rent log houses for both the low rent and lower heating cost.
    The frame houses were likely built first to attract skilled workers during the early phases of operation. Of course the officers homes would have had to built early and to a higher standard. Once the mine was in full operation, there was a need for more unskilled labor and housing for them, this was probably when the log houses were built. Quick and cheap for labor that the company did not have a high regard. This seems very “cold” by today’s standards, but it was the way things were back when Tamarack was being developed. We tend to look at what went on with 21st century values, and it is easy to forget that the Copper Country of the late 19th and early 20th centuries stood out as the best and safest districts to live and work in.

  3. Love Mike’s web site and all of the work he does for our enjoyment! Equally enjoy all of Paul’s insightful remarks and explanations….maybe the two of you should collaborate??? Just thinkin out loud… :)

  4. Steve – We do work together, every time Paul takes the time to fill us all in with a little history in the comments section. Its exactly the type of collaboration I was hoping for when I started CCE so many years ago. My plan was always to write what I observe and let others who know better fill in the blanks and correct me when I’m wrong. Paul is just one of those “experts” that are gracious enough to share their knowledge here on the site from day to day (and there’s more then one out there) and I’m awfully honored that he does. (and to everyone else who contributes to the site as well)

  5. A little addition to Paul’s information about the construction of the houses. The book “Mine Towns” said that in some cases a house would have wood planking on the outside and the inside walls consisted of just the bare studs. In on case the house had planking on the inside walls and the studs were exposed on the outside. Imagine trying to heat a house built like that. I highly recommend the book “Mines Towns” to anyone who has an interest in the Copper Country. Not only does the book give information on the houses in the area, it also tells what the living conditions were in the area. One interesting example is indoor plumbing. Most of the early houses did not have any indoor plumbing. When the company started putting toilets inside the house, many of the toilets ended up in the basement of the houses. They were accessed by a trap door in the floor and a ladder to the basement.

    As everyone who lives in the Copper Country or follows this web site or others are quite aware how cold it can get. A report by the USGS on natural mine ventilation stated that in 1929 two thermometers at Central registered 52 degrees below zero.

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