An Old Look at Old Victoria

The Victoria Mine’s final chapter lasted from from the turn of the century to just after the first world war, when a drop in copper prices ultimately led to the mine’s demise. That year was 1921, and as the mine filled with water the neighboring village emptied of its residents. An area that once supported hundreds was diminished to several dozen almost overnight. The buildings and homes of the old mine were abandoned and left for ruin. Nearly a century later most of those old structures have passed into history, but there still remains a great deal of ruins scattered about to remember the old mine and townsite by. And best of all, those ruins are open to the public for respectful exploration, as they sit right alongside the North Country Scenic Trail.

In the ruin map above I’ve placed a very rough approximation of where that scenic trail (the red line) lies in relation to the Victoria ruins we have featured here on CCE. The trail makes its way through the collection of worker housing remains at the old Saw Mill location (to the left of the map) before swinging around to the backside of Forest Hill and making its way up to the hoist building. After passing through the hoist building, it continues through the old mine site and passes by the boiler house, rock house, and past the cable diverters before making its way out onto the road (For those not wanting to hike, the aptly named Victoria Mine road will take you right up to the mine, though be warned the road is rather rough up near the mine). Along the way the trail takes a moment to stop at the top of the old rock pile, which offers an amazing view down over the Ontonagon river valley and the town of Rockland beyond.

While the hoist house and rock house remains are impressive, there really isn’t enough still standing at the old Victoria mine site to give a proper idea of just how sprawling the old mine complex once was. Victoria was a jewel in the wilderness, a shining beacon of civilization surrounded by natures wild and unforgiving landscape. Perhaps the best way to appreciate this fact is to see the mine as it appeared at its height, or at least as close as once can get. For that I turn to the amazing aerial images found at the USGS Earth Explorer site.

This amazing image was taken in 1937, a good decade after the old mine closed down for good. Amazingly a great deal of the old gal can still be seen, including her hoist houses, boiler house, and array of shops. (click on the image to get a real good view) You can also make out an incredible number of old houses that were once home to the mine’s workers. Amazingly only a handful of these houses still stand today, though you can find several of their old foundations scattered alongside the roads and in the woods. About all that still exists is a few houses near the mine site and the small collection preserved over at the Old Victoria historical site (far left of image).

As for the mine itself, the only building not standing here is the rock house. Besides the two hoist houses, you can also make out our mystery building, the cable diverters, and that water/air tank. There’s also a great deal of wooden shops hanging out on the west end of the site (bottom of image). The captain’s house stills stands, and is today a private residence.

Of course the image shows a few more interesting items; items that were not featured during our recent exploration. That would be the Victoria Dam and the mine’s chief source of power – the Taylor Compressor. More on that tomorrow…

Discuss…

  1. I love those 1938 aerial shots, this was a nice one when I looked at it several weeks ago when Mike started this series.

  2. Awesome aerial image,thanks Mike.There was a two story school house just across a small ravine (a bridge crossed it)from the rockhouse.Wonder if that is in the aerial image?

  3. If my memory is still intact arent there 5 or 6 occupied homes on Manager’s Row? I recall them being as the road (Victoria Rd.) started making a gradual uphill climb. Very interesting in that the homes were all too close to the road and too close together for proper driveways. Cars and trucks were parked on the shoulder of the road and in the front yards. Including what probably were at least one on blocks and another 1 or 2 that appeared were not opperable. A couple of vegatable gardens were included in the scene.

  4. Last fall there was a fenced area on top of the rock pile saying (to the affect) that the pile is on top of #1 shaft and #1 shaft is starting to collapse – per the county mine inspector. There was a slight depression but the shaft would be under a lot of rock.
    Is the sign still there? Is the depression larger?

  5. Mr. Explorer, could you show us on your map where this sign labeled No. 3 is ? Are you and MLC refering to the same location ?

  6. The roped off area sits right above the area I marked as the Scenic Lookout, atop the rock pile just behind (to the north) of the boiler house.

  7. One of the most historic spots on all of Lake Superior! This is due to its being the site of the famous Ontonagon Copper Rock. One other was known to the Indians and the early French at the mouth of the Iron (“Metal”) River in Wisconsin.

    Victoria Mine started out as the Forest location in the late 1840s or early 1850s. Years ago I found some 1850s letters sent from the Forest location to Superior, Wis. Made copies and presented them to the Old Victoria preservation society for their archives.

  8. I love these pictures of the ruins near today’s North Country Trail.

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