After touring the old Merchants and Miners Bank lobby, we turned our attention to a pair of large double doors which graced the lobby’s back wall. Though topped by a large transom window this opening was once much smaller and more reserved, having been increased in size for the building’s new use. Originally the opening provided access to the bank’s executive office suite, a rather large and ornate office in which many of the bank’s major financial decisions were made.
Today the large room is missing what must have been some seriously lush furniture, but two of its more impressive features do remain. These would be the room’s impressively intricate parquet floor and its oak-adorned fireplace.
We start with that floor. A parquet floor by definition consists of a series of small wood planks and pieces laid out in intricate patterns. Amazingly the floor seen here is thought to be original to the building, placed here at bequest of the bank. The floor didn’t survive all these years completely untouched, however, as it had been painted over in redrum red at some point in its life. Fortunately the renovators were able to remove the red paint and return the floor to its former glory.
The most amazing part of this parquet floor is found along its outer edge, which features this amazing combination of dark and light pieces laid out in a spiraling pattern.
Like found in the neighboring lobby, this room also sported a beautiful oak fireplace. This particular model was of the corner variety, but still an impressive detail none-the-less.
Moving to the back of the room we come across a narrow hallway. This hallway once served as an outer entrance to the bank’s vault, which was located to the left in this photo. The vault was removed when the bank vacated this space around the turn of the century and would later be used by future tenants for storage. Today the old vault has been converted into the worlds most secure men’s room. The hallway also serves as a connection to the neighboring room storefront, an opening I would guess was added at some point after the bank vacated the premises. Probably when the Keweenaw Printing Company took over the building’s first floor.
Then we have this interesting area, featuring a stairwell and modern elevator. This area is completely new, having been added to the building specifically to make the building ADA compliant. As the building was not built with an elevator and featured a rather narrow and steep staircase that can only be accessed from outside, the park had to add more accessible options for the future patrons of the facility. This back room and the similar room on the upper floors provided the best solution, allowing room for both a modern staircase as well as an elevator without compromising the building’s exterior integrity. Originally there was a wall here, with a single door leading to a series of small “sample rooms” – spaces where traveling salesmen or other businesses could showcase their products – sitting in the space now occupied by the stairwell.
The staircase that would end up replacing that sample room as an interesting architectural element in its own right, even though its a modern addition. It rises up through the upper floors in spaces that were originally home to kitchens and storage areas.
This new staircase was built to resemble what might have existed if the stairway actually existed at the time of the building’s birth but uses more modern and less expensive materials such as steel. (you’ll see the difference when we showcase the building’s original staircase later in this series)
Though for the most part this new staircase lacks some of the more classical elements as the rest of the building, there is a somewhat ornate newel sitting at the foot of the stairs. I suppose this was placed here to match the gravitas of the neighboring room, a job it does rather well.
But before heading up, we had to take a short detour down that hallway to the neighboring storefront.
To Be Continued…
The Grand Opening of the Keweenaw National Historical Park’s new Calumet Visitor Center – housed within the newly renovated Union Building – will be held on Thursday October 27th with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 10am. In addition to the visitor center itself, the building will be home to several interactive exhibits about life and work in the great metropolis of Red Jacket. The building will be open to the public between 9am and 5pm, and there is no cost for admission.