Though Oak Street continues on for another half mile into the neighboring communities of Yellow Jacket and Tamarack, our tour ends at Red Jacket village limit. Today that limit is 9th street, but lriginally the village ended further east at 7th street. At that time the land out here along the 700 and 800 blocks was vacant, owned by C&H and used primarily as grazing land for cows. But as C&H prospered, the village was forced to expand to accommodate its growing population. Soon 8th and 9th streets was added to village rolls, and Oak moved westward to join them.
Since these new blocks were actually C&H owned land, the first tenants to move in were generally C&H approved, such as single family homes and churches. In fact the first large building to make its home on the 800 block was a church, St. Joseph’s. Finished in 1890, this rather modest wooden church was built for the local Slovenien population, though it was more colloquially known as the Austrian Church. C&H donated two lots along Oak to the congregation, and even provided several thousand dollars in seed money. Unfortunately the new church was short lived, as it was destroyed by fire in 1902.
The Slovenians were not deterred however, and decided to replace the old church with a beautiful sandstone structure of such size and scope to rival any other building in Red
(To learn more about this magnificent church, check out CCE’s earlier look at its architecture HERE)
By the time St. Joseph’s magnificent new cathedral was finished, the 800 block had evolved from grazing ground to a major metropolitan street scape, with several large business blocks lining its length. The reason for this massive transformation was the small wood framed building seen above – the Mineral Range depot. Though the station originally served the competing Hancock and Calumet railroad, a subsequent merger placed the depot right back into the Mineral Range’s hands. By the turn of the century all passenger traffic to and from Red Jacket originated from this building, prompting a building boom along the 800 that would quickly alter the surrounding landscape.
In 1908 the old and tired station was replaced by a more fitting structure, a noble brick and stone beauty that featured all the modern trimmings including indoor plumbing, steam heat, and electric lighting. The upper floor housed railroad offices, while the first contained a ticket office, baggage room, and large waiting lounge.
That new depot still sits along Oak today, though it’s really only a shell of its former self. Most depressing is the absence of its large awning that would have originally sheltered passengers awaiting their train. (To explorer the old station further, be sure to check out my first visit to the station HERE)
From our vantage point near the station, we turn back down Oak to witness a view that would have been shared by the village’s new arrivals as they stepped off their train. Today the view is rather vacant, with only the massive hulk of St. Joseph’s (now St. Paul’s) providing any evidence of the village’s more illustrious past. But the view enjoyed by those early visitors would have been much different.
The 800 block was dominated by four main structures, not including the depot itself. While the north side of the street had room for only the depot and St. Joseph’s church, the south side was home to three structures; two wood framed buildings and a massive stone business block. The smallest of these was nothing more then an old single family home converted into a retail space. For many years it housed a Chinese laundry run by a Chinese immigrant by the name of Lee Sing. The building no longer stands. The larger building next door, however, does still stand. This is a building known today as the Oak Street Inn.
This handsome two story business block was built in the 1890’s, and originally housed a grocery store and saloon. But with the arrival of the massive Lieblein’s Grocery store next door, the small grocer was forced to shut its doors. It was replaced by a small confectioner. Today the building houses a small inn, and the first floor store fronts have been converted into guest rooms. While no longer serving its original purpose, the old building has been beautifully restored and looks very similar to what it once did a century ago.
Next door to the Oak Street Inn stands a large parking lot, now used by the neighboring church during services. But this large lot actually sits atop the foundation to one of Oak Street’s largest buildings – the Bollman Block. Built around 1900, the Bollman Block was a massive four story brick and sandstone building block that occupied the entire south-east corner of Oak and 8th streets.
It’s hard to find good photos of the old Bollman block, at least in online archives (you can however view a good photo of it at the Copper Country Architects site HERE). The best I can do is that zoomed in photo from the Tech Archives seen above, where the old gal can be seen on the far right.
The building was named after Ernest Bollman, a land developer who helped establish the neighboring village of Laurium (and served as its mayor for a time). Bollman’s real estate dealings earned him incredible wealth and prestige, allowing him to open his own bank – the State Savings Bank of Laurium. By 1900 the old land developer turned his attention to the newly opened opportunities along Oak’s western end and built himself one of the largest business blocks in all the village.
The Bollman was a four story sandstone monstrosity with about 5400 square feet of space on each floor. Its top floor housed a large meeting hall, and its middle two stories were divided ingo apartments. Its sprawling first floor was built to house four separate retail spaces, but the building’s first tenant elected to rent out all four spaces for itself. That first tenant was Leiblein’s Wholesale Grocery, a Hancock based business that was hoping to expand its business into the Calumet area.
The Lieblein’s business continued to occupy the Bollman block up until the 1920′s. After that an auto dealer moved in, occupying most of the first floor as well. In the 1950′s the building suffered a catastrophic fire that caused the massive building’s front facade to crash down onto Oak street, killing one fire fighter and injuring another. Today the only clue of the old building’s existence lies in the rather large sidewalk that now fronts the parking lot; a sidewalk marked by several concrete patches that once supported piers for the building’s iron skeleton.
The Bollman block is probably one of the Calumet’s least known structures, even though it was easily one of its largest and most impressive. Without its massive hulk anchoring the 800 block, this end of Oak street looks rather empty and desolate. The view down this street a century ago would have been a much more impressive and metropolitan experience, with it and the neighboring Arlington Hotel still standing. You would have definitely felt like you were looking down a great city’s commercial center.