Calumet-opolis: A Guided Tour (p5)

Today we continue our look at that high-res panoramic of the Calumetopolis by turning to the south-east once more. Now we leave Portland Street behind along Red Jacket’s southern border and begin to head out into the untamed lands south of the city. Here the city fades away and is replaced by the industrial complex of the Hecla Mine and the Mineral Range yards before fading into the swampy wilderness south of Swedetown. But first there’s a few remaining pieces of C&H’s main surface plant yet to explore in this frame, starting with its massive brick warehouse sitting along Red Jacket Road.

At the upper left corner of this frame sits the intersection of Red Jacket Road and US41 – obscured by the massive bulk of C&H’s warehouse No.1. This building continues to stand still toady, together with its younger brother to the west (warehouse No.2). The No.1 is now owned by the KHP and used for storage (oddly enough). Before that it was home to a moving business for several decades.

Behind the warehouse you can just make out bits and pieces of a few other interesting structures, including the roof of the public library. Next door to the library – along Mine Street – you can also make out the former Calumet Armory. Later the armory shared the Colosseum before moving once again to its own dedicated complex out near Tamarack No.5.

Moving on down the line we end up at the center of C&H’s railroad – the roundhouse. This stone building still stands, and is currently used as the home for an electronics manufacturer. Nearby stands the man-engine house for the Hecla Mine, a structure that also still stands as part of that electronics manufacturer. Towering above both structures are the nearby No.2 and No.15 shafts. The No.2 is a Hecla shaft on the conglomerate, while the No.15 is on the Osceola amygdaloid. Once again the No.15 is joined by one of those massive engine houses. The spire in the distance belongs to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on the corner of Tamarack and Second Streets in Laurium.

A step further we have one of C&H’s largest structures – its centralized Machine Shop. This stone building measures over 400 feet long and 50 feet wide and rises over 30 feet into the air. At the time of its construction it was the area’s largest single building, and continues to be one of the Copper Country’s more impressive structures (it still stands). Scattered about in that massive structures shadow are a collection of other C&H shops, including the Blacksmith shop seen on the left edge of the picture. Sitting smack dab in the middle of its all is an office building that also still stands today.

What’s even more interesting in this particular image is what can be seen in the background, namely the distant skyline of Laurium village. A collection of spires can be seen piercing the sky, including the incredibly impressive 80 foot high bell tower belonging to the First Methodist Church on Kearsarge street (While the church still stands to this day, its bell tower has since been removed). Also seen in the image is the narrow tower belonging to Laurium’s first town hall, to be later replaced by the new sandstone building that stands today.

Continuing southward along C&H’s main surface plant, we come to another impressive collection of steam power. This time we’re looking at the buildings housing the mine’s Frontenac engine house. The Frontenac hailed from the same Leavitt built stock as the much heralded Superior Engine up at the Calumet mine. Rated at over 2000 HP, this compound engine featured a six foot stroke and 25-foot diameter flywheel. Like the Superior, the Frontenac drove four hoisting drums along with a pair of compressors and all the equipment at the neighboring Machine Shop.

Finally we come to the far right end of this particular frame and in turn the far southern reaches of the C&H surface plant. We can glimpse the tall stack and stone walls of the Houghton & Seneca boiler house, a pair of engines which powered the shafts along the Hecla mine’s midsection. More interesting to me, however, is the silhouettes of a series of large structures in the background. These are the buildings of the Sacred Heart school and convent, located at the head of Hecla Street along Lake Linden Ave.

Here’s that same complex during its heyday. The building on the left with the impressive bell tower is the Sacred Heart school, later moved to a modern one-story building along the highway. Next door – to the right – is the convent school. The convent itself would be just off the frame on the far right. The school boasted eight classes (4 on each floor) and a student population of over 500(!). Today this entire corner is occupied by the Laurium Housing complex, a much uglier and less ornate natured structure.

With the C&H surface plant (and Laurium skyline) behind us, our next stop on the Calumet-opolis tour will be the Mineral Range rail yard in the center of the frame. This area was the center of the area’s transportation-centric commerce, as any goods that found their way into Calumet’s shops and stores had to be unloaded here first. Over a dozen warehouses and freight depots lined the assortment of tracks that fanned out here just south of Yellow Jacket. The first of these warehouses seen in this particular frame is the interesting structure seen in the close-up above. The building belongs to the Pabst Brewing Company, a Milwaukee based brewer who used the building as a warehouse and distribution point for its beers in the Calumet area.

Today the Pabst warehouse is a thing of the past, and the old rail yards that once lined it are nothing but an empty field. The Mineral Range mainline still exists, however, as a snowmobile trail seen in the middle of the frame.

But just behind where that previous picture was taken we can find a lone remnant of this once industrious landscape. This particular building happen to have once been one of the many warehouses that once lined this corridor, one specifically belonging to the Armstrong-Thielman Lumber Company. This large warehouse was only a piece of a sprawling lumber yard that once spread from here a good quarter mile southward up to the old C&H railroad Red Jacket line.

Here’s that same building more then a century ago, during its more amiable youth. Most of Calumet’s homes and businesses were most likely built from wood that was once stored in this very warehouse, or at least close by it. The Armstrong-Thielman conglomerate was easily the region’s largest lumber company, and had yards in every major Keweenaw town.

In the background of this close-up can be seen some of the other warehouses that lined the Mineral Range tracks. In addition to the Pabst and Armstrong-Thielman buildings, this part of the rail yards was home to more then a dozen other warehouses and depots including the Portage Coal & Dock Company, Edward / Ulseth lumber yards, Lake Superior Produce and Cold Storage company, and the F.R. Godfrey & Sons Produce Company.

Across the tracks from those warehouses was a small collection of C&H homes known as Newtown. This small community was squeezed between 9th and 6th Streets and included the cross streets of Wedge, Temple, Old Dam, and Osceola streets. Serving that small community was the equally diminutive Webster School – seen here on a wedge of land sandwiched between Osceola and 9th streets. The school was two stories, with three classrooms on each floor. Six teachers and two principals catered to a student body of over 250. Today the old school site is home to a pair of rather decrepit looking satellite dishes.

Last, but not least, we find ourselves at the raised grade supporting the C&H Railroad’s Red Jacket spur, making its journey from the C&H surface plant out to the Red Jacket shaft north of Yellow Jacket. Due to the already present tracks of the Mineral Range railroad, the C&H line had to be raised up to clear them. Along the way the line crossed two small thru-deck girder trestles, one to bridge Osceola Road and the other to cross the Mineral Range line. You can see both of these crossings in the close-up above, but only one still remains to this day. Most interesting to me about this pic is the revelation that those trestles look to have been built to support two parallel lines at some point in their lives. Like everything C&H did, the line was apparently designed and built with future expansion in mind. In this case, however, that extra line would never be needed.

Just south of those bridges sits the heart of the Mineral Range rail yards – its roundhouse! We’ll check that out on the last stop on our tour, tomorrow!….

To Be Continued…

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  1. Looking at your picture of the approach to the trestle, it appears to be two thru girder structures (trestles) in place at that time. Today only one structure is still there. (clicking on your “only one” link.)
    It is very evident in the current shots of the structure that the abutments supported two structures, side by side, The abutments are wide enough, to the north of the remaining trestle.

  2. It seems to me i remember the lumber company burning down in the 60’s and i dont remember if they rebuilt or not all i know it was one heck of a fire and burned up an old delivery truck stored inside.

  3. That fluted brick stack for the Frontenac Boiler has to be one of the best looking stacks in the area. Have always marveled at that one !!!!

  4. I think that second bridge was one of those just in case things got busier, the right of way is not wide enough to support 2 tracks in that photo.

    I remember that fire at the lumber yard, although for some reason at that time it was a furniture warehouse, but then I was a little kid then. I do remember looking at it from the C&H brdige afterwards and seeing the railroad track into the place being bent by the heat of the fire

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