Great Buildings In Memoriam (p3)

We finish up our great buildings series with another look at the famous Bollman Block in Calumet along with the long lineage of great buidlings that once served Houghton’s high school students, starting with the very first built around 1888.

Rock School – Houghton

This beautiful rubble rock building was home to Houghton’s first high school, built at some point around 1888 at the corner of Houghton and Pewabic Streets. The building was officially the Houghton School, but it would be more commonly known as the Rock School based on its impressive facade treatment. The building soaring four stories was one of the city’s largest buildings, rivaling the impressive Houghton County Courthouse a block to the east. But as the city grew, the old rock school would prove to be not big enough, and it was demolished to make way for a much more ambitious and impressive replacement.

Portage Lake High School – Houghton

Houghton’s second great public school was this impressive structure, though you can’t quite tell in this shot. Built around the turn of the century, the massive two story structure took up an entire city block and was crafted out of local red sandstone. The incredible structure was short lived, however, as a quick spreading fire in 1921 completely gutted the building and resulted in its demolition. It would be replaced yet again by an even more massive structure completed around 1924.

Portage Lake High School – Houghton

This massive building was the third to occupy this very same spot, replacing two others that had come before it. After a devastating fire had destroyed the previous building, this modern (and completely fireproof) behemoth was erected to replace it. Similar in style to the Hancock High School built across the pond, the four story brick building features large windows and several interesting art deco elements. The building would continue to serve the community and hold a prominent place in the city’s skyline for another three-quarters of a century, before being replaced with a more modern structure up the hill. The vacated building was then demolished, leaving a large open field in its place the continues to be vacant to this day.

The Bollman Block – Calumet

Built along the up-and-coming western end of Oak Street in the bustling metropolis of Calumet, this massive sandstone building would become the village’s largest commercial block. Rising four stories in height and containing over 200,000 square feet of floorspace, this monster of a building would come to dominate the Oak Street street-scape. For visitors arriving to the village at the neighboring train station, the sight of this incredible building must of formed quite the impression of the remote mining town. Unfortunately the building would be destroyed in the 1950’s thanks to a catastrophic fire that resulted in the collapse of the building’s front facade (killing a fire fighter in the process). The lot on which it sat is now just an empty parking lot.

Downtown Hancock

Our last great building on our list is actually a collection of great buildings that once lined Hancock’s main street. These buildings can be seen in all their glory in the incredible panoramic image seen above, courtesy the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection (click on image to see full size). The buildings of interest in this shot include Hancock’s original primary and secondary schools, along with St. Josephs’s church and school. The old high school would be destroyed in a fire around 1922, and would be replaced by a new massive school built behind it up the hill (a building now owned by Finlandia University). The rest of the buildings – save St. Joseph’s Church – would either be destroyed by fire as well or be simply torn down in the name of progress. The only things from this panoramic that can still exists is St. Joseph’s Church – renovated into the Finish American Heritage Center – and the low sandstone wall seen in front of the school buildings.

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  1. So the 3rd High School was torn down in 1999? When did the new one go into operation? I was thinking that the old building sat for a while.

  2. The 3rd High School building did sit for awhile before its demolition. I was in 7th grade and attending the High School when the new one up the hill was being completed. That was in 1989-1990. The first half of the school year, we were in the old building and after Christmas break we returned to class in the new High School building that is there today. I do not know the exact year the old building was torn down however.

  3. My cousin, Paul Hunnell, correctly provided the information that our great-uncle, Joseph Miglio, was the firefighter killed in the Bollmann fire in 1950. I grew up with one of Joseph’s sister, Martina, Paul’s and my grandmother, in Illinois. I still remember our getting the phone call that morning in 1950 from Calumet that Joseph was killed in the fire. Joseph’s picture, in his Calumet firefighter’s uniform, is in the old Calumet Fire Station, in a room on the 2nd floor. Joseph’s sister, Theresa Miglio, cleaned the Fire Station where the men slept. Also, Joseph and Theresa for years operated the family grocery store in Calumet.

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