LocationsYellow Jacket

Yellow Jacket – Then & Now (p2)

Continuing our tour of the C&H mining town of Yellow Jacket, we make yet another rotation atop the Tamarack No.2 rock house and across our high-res panoramic of the greater Red Jacket area. In this frame Red Jacket itself finally comes into view along the top of the pic, separated from Yellow Jacket by the Mineral Range rail corridor (look for the lines of passenger coaches and box cars). But we’ll come back to Red Jacket later in this series. First we have to continue our walk along Oak Street….

Looking east down Oak Street from our Yellow Jacket location we can see the towering twin spires of St. Paul’s (previously known as St. Joseph’s) which marks the western border of Calumet village and the beginning of Yellow Jacket. Everything between here and there was considered C&H property, and under the company’s control. For anyone not living in Yellow Jacket crossing Ninth Street would be trespassing, a technicality that C&H used to its advantage to halt any striker’s parades from passing St. Paul’s.

Yellow Jacket’s existence owes greatly to the establishment of C&H’s Red Jacket shaft just north of the community. Looking down Eleventh Street today you can still get a long distance view of that old shaft’s surface plant. While a century ago this view would have been dominated by the shaft’s massive shaft/rock house just above that pine tree on the right only a single abandoned building marks the site today, a structure which I believe once housed the shaft’s sinking hoist but was later used as a warehouse.

Turning slightly to the left form that earlier vantage point, you find yourself looking at this old house sitting at the corner. Unlike most of the houses along Oak Street, this particular model looks to have been altered the least over the last century. It even still sports that diamond shaped window in the attic.

Here’s that same house as it looked in its youth. Like the rest of the homes along Oak Street, this one appears to be for a slightly higher class of worker. Considering Oak Street would essentially be Yellow Jacket’s “main street” if it had one, I suppose the houses here might have been of a bit higher quality to put on a good show. Turns out that this house was originally home to Mr. Thomas Koski, a “rockman” employed by the C&H Mining Company.

An example of Oak Street’s importance to the community is the presence of these guys – sidewalks. In our high-res images these walks were only dirt paths, but at some point they were given the proper concrete treatment (the red tint is from the conglomerate poor rock used for the aggregate). In fact Oak Street is Yellow Jacket’s only street to have paved walkways, allowing residents of both it and neighboring Tamarack to walk all the way to Red Jacket in comfort.

From the Oak Street intersection we turn south along Eleventh Street and make our way to the community’s southern border of Portland Street. From our high perch atop the shaft house we turn slightly to the right once again to bring that area of Yellow Jacket into view. This side of the community is dominated predominately by the spire of St. Mary’s – Yellow Jacket’s only church – and the relatively unsettled western reaches of Portland Street.

Of particular interest in this latest frame are these houses sitting along the end of Eleventh Street. We’ve seen these houses before, most recently along Oak Street. This particular house style seems to be the standard type C&H built all across Yellow Jacket. The home to the left was originally home to Jacob Kalcic, who was a trammer boss for C&H. He lived there with his wife, son, and daughter. To help cover rent the family also took in a boarder: a trammer by the name of Ivan Sterk. The house to the right was home to a miner by the name of Martinson, who lived there with his wife and a boarder by the name of Iver Kjolso who was also a miner.

Here’s those same homes as they look today. Besides the enclosed porch, they look very similar to what they once did. Of course there is the manner of that ugly siding, but I’m sure we can blame the 70’s for that…

Just east of those two homes, Portland street crosses tracks belonging to the C&H Railroad. These tracks – nicely marked by the large overhead banner – served the Red Jacket shaft to the north side of town and cut a swath down the center of Yellow Jacket along the way. South of here the tracks would cross over Osceola Road on a trestle that still stands today, before heading on to join up with the rest of C&H’s surface plant. (on a side note, you gotta love that cow just wandering around next to the tracks. Someone’s having beef for dinner!)

The tracks are long gone of course, but the old right-of-way continues to plow its way through the center of Yellow Jacket. Today it looks to be used as a general purpose trail and alleyway. This shot is looking north.

Further up the road and past the tracks we have this end of Yellow Jacket’s most famous landmark – St. Mary’s Church. The church was built in 1896 and served Red Jacket’s Italian emigrants. (check out its CCE profile HERE) As was generally the case, this particular structure was built atop C&H owned lands donated by the company for the specific purpose of housing a church.

Here’s that same church a century later, this shot taken from its less photographed rear side. Though its front facade and spire are beautiful gothic pieces, I find its rear side to be slightly more interesting thanks to the collection of double hung windows lining its south wall. It seems to be an odd choice on a church, and makes its back side look more like an apartment building or hotel.

With the church behind us, we found ourselves crossing onto the lands once occupied by the Mineral Range rail yards. Here Yellow Jacket ends and Red Jacket officially begins. And while it may mean the Yellow Jacket portion of our tour is over, there’s still quite a bit of those high-res panoramics to explore. Stay tuned!

To Be Continued….

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16 Comments

  1. Lots of the C&H buildings had those nice diamond windows in the attic. It seems like an awfully nice touch, for such mass-produced housing. I wonder if it served a specific purpose (such as a vent)?

  2. It must have been fun going to the bathroom in the winter time as i see an outhouse in every yard. I wonder if they had electric or just telephones back then?

  3. Looks like almost all of them kept gardens in the back yards. Something for the wives to do while they were on break from all the other stuff they had to do. Looks like a run on one of the outhouses in the 1st big photo. Speaking of which, note the trap door at the back of the outhouses along the alley. Those made it handy for the company crews on the honey wagons when it was time to dip the pits. In 1913 those doors were used by the strikers’ wives to dip their brooms before going out to smack scabs over the head while they were on their way to work.
    As to the winter trips, I doubt anyone spent any more time than necessary; at night the chamber pot was the usual choice. In the morning the pots would be emptied and hopefully cleaned. Whomever was lowest on the pecking order got that job. Often when there were boarders involved in the house, the family would have a hired girl who got the (excuse the term) crappy jobs around the house. Privacy as we know it today did not exist back then. They were a tough bunch of people. We owe them allot.

  4. That cow managed to make it into both of your high-res images.
    Never noticed those trap doors before.Thanks Paul, not very many sites where you can find detailed info like that.

  5. Just for the record, that cow is the part of these photos that jumps out at me the most. My grandpa constantly tells me of what he calls “good ole’ days”; among his stories were the cows of the people down his block, let out during the day to graze, returning to their respective yards by forming a line down the road, on their own (guided by some internal instinctive clock), at sundown.
    The whole area takes a far more personal feel when you look at photos like these.

  6. I thought about the chamber pot after i posted my first message, if you zoom in on the depot there is a steam train sitting there and i can see the house i gre up in on the corner of tenth and oak it would be intersting to see how many people lived and died in that house over the years, it looks a lot different than it did in the 60’s, it would be nice to be able to go back in time for 15 miniutes to really take in the flavor of the past. I really love this site please keep up the good work and if i were up there i would gladly give you a hand at research and exploring. Thanks for this site!

  7. Insulbrick siding 1940’s-1960’s. I find it interesting how many buildings can be found with this. A good thing about these houses that have had little done to them is they are closest to original. The updated/modernised houses have lost some of there character. One good thing about a house that has had siding added in the 40’s-80’s is that it has protected the original siding. Bad idea at the time but good for preservationists now.

  8. darrell; my thoughts also (go back in time). How about a modern version of this? Hologram. Can you imagine the Red Jacket image standing in that vacant field.

  9. That’s one thing I like about the Detroit area: Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village. It’s this huge kind of “outdoor museum,” complete with old homes, old farms, model T’s, horses and buggies, old clothing; basically 100+ year old everything. It’s as close as going back in time as you can ever get, and I always wonder how cool it would be to have a place like that in the Keweenaw.

  10. darrell – what you see there is the Red Jacket School, which does sit on the same lot the Morrison now stands. Different schools though. I’ll come back around to these high-res and provide more details about what you’re seeing starting this week.

  11. Insulbrick was a popular low cost home improvement back then. It is a heavy asphalt product textured to look like brick. The Soo Line Railroad used a combination of red and cream Insulbrick on some of its buildings so it wasn’t just for houses. When it was new it did a fairly good job of imitating brick but once aged and weathered, it looks pretty ratty. The next great leap forward was asbestos siding which became popular in the early ’50’s. It is hard, fireproof, and can be painted if weathered. Of course there’s that slight inconvenience of cancer, but Johns Mansville made allot of money with it. Another higher end home “improvement” was Lannonstone: a popular real stone veneer that was common in Wisconsin. It was so popular that Insulbrick made fake Lannonstone. My vote goes to Lannonstone as the most ugly of the 3.

  12. Regarding the homes at the end of Eleventh St., my grandmother, Emma Engblom (sometimes spelled Engbloom), boarded at the green one in 1905-06. She taught school at the Franklin School, which was at the SW corner of 7th and Elm. This information is from the 1905-06 Polk Directory. She would soon marry John Hill, who worked at the Calumet Post Office for 40 years. Are there any pictures of that Franklin School? Thanks for the wonderful pictures and discussion!

    1. Janice.. Thanks for providing a bit more personal history to a few of these old houses I’ve featured here. As far as the school you mention (on the corner of 7th and Elm) the only school near that intersection would be the Red Jacket school. The only Franklin school I know of is the one down at Franklin location north of Quincy. is it possible you got the name wrong? Considering where your grandmother loved, I would guess she taught at either the Red Jacket, Grant, Tamarack, or Webster schools. Those were the schools closest to her.

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