Inside the Union Building (p4)

The Merchants and Miners Bank would end up holding up in the Union building for nearly two decades, finally vacating in 1906 for its new digs up the road in the Jacka Block, a building built to replace the Jacka Livery that sat on the corner of Portland for many years. There the bank would sit for nearly a century, before changing its name to River Valley State Bank and moving its offices into its new impressive digs over along the highway.

The space in which the bank once sat would become home to a few short-time tenants before the arrival of the Union Building’s longest running occupant – the Keweenaw Printing Company. The KPC would end up utilizing the ornate lobby as its main office space, with the neighboring executive office serving a similar purpose. As for the actual printing and binding work, that would be done next door in the Union Building’s second storefront – a rather large space that had previously been home to Calumet’s Post Office.

The space in which the Post Office resided was much larger then bank’s old space next door, at least in length. But what the room gained in size it lacked in ornamentation, as neither a tin ceiling or tiled floor can be found here (nor a fireplace for that matter). This was designed as a strictly utilitarian space, one that fit both the Post Office and the Keweenaw Printing Company’s needs rather nicely.

As the post office this space would have been entered by means of the centered entrance seen here. Another entrance was added to the building’s north facing alley side as well. When the room served the printing company it did so as a binding room, and this door and the windows were probably blocked up during that time.

Hanging from the rather plain ceiling were a series of what looked to be old style bulbs, complete with super-sized filaments and even – amazingly – what looked to be knob and tube wiring. While they may appear original these are actual reproductions hung to look like old bulbs.

At the room’s far end stands another set of large double doors, but these are minus the transom window that was present next door. These doors lead to a second room on this side of the building, a room the post office probably used as a sorting or delivery room. But the room’s real claim to fame is it’s role after the Post Office vacated the premises – a role it served while under the occupation of the Keweenaw Printing Company.

This small space in the far back corner of the building was used by the printing company for its printing presses, which would have been running most of the day here. The large double doors out back most likely were used to help ventilate the space, which was sure to become rather hot an humid with the presses running.

Besides the presses, the room also housed the company’s typesetting machines and various other pieces of mechanical equipment, possible even the machine seen here. The presence of this press room became quite obvious to the renovation team as they found the floor of this room to be completely destroyed, soaked through to the subfloor with grease. Needless to say it all had to be replaced.

Besides the pair of large double doors leading outside, the press room also features a second door that once led to the neighboring sample rooms. But since the adjacent stairway and elevator shaft now takes up that space, this door is a dummy and now leads nowhere.

With the first floor finished, it was time to head upstairs to the first of two lodge halls to explore. This one belonging to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows….

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.

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