Dockside at the Quincy Smelter

After having been dug out of the ground, milled and smelted, copper’s last stop before leaving the region was one of several shipping docks found alongside the waterways of the peninsula. Here copper ingots, cakes and rods were piled high to wait for a ride on an outgoing freighter and their delivery to industrial customers throughout the country. At the Quincy Mine, this dock was located predictably at the mine’s smelting complex just east of Hancock, one of two docks the massive complex featured.

After half a century of abandonment, Quincy’s old shipping dock is only a shadow of its former self, most of it having succumbed to the passage of time. What was once a sprawling piece of marine infrastructure has been reduced to nothing more then several lines of pilings and a narrow concrete ledge.

Though gone, those lines of wood pilings betray a particularly large and impressive structure that once extended several dozen feet out into the water, and several hundred feet down the shore.

Considering the amount of weight that would have once sat atop these docks, the sub structure supporting that dock was particularly robust, featuring these rather large timbers placed atop the pilings.

In addition to the wood portion, the old dock also featured a narrow concrete section placed up alongside the neighboring warehouse. Old maps of the site would seem to suggest that these concrete section was placed here to support a portion of the complex’s narrow gauge tramway which would have ventured out atop the dock to assist in loading operations.

A stroll along the old concrete dock revealed a few artifacts we would expect atop such a structure – especially these old cleats used to help secure a freighter to the dock during loading.

There’s also a few unusual items, most notable of which is this old iron ladder. While the presence of such a ladder along a dock is rather common, the placement of this particular ladder is odd considering its in would sit in the center of the old wood dock when it was still intact. I would guess that there was an opening here in that old dock to allow the egress of this ladder, perhaps for inspection and maintenance purposes.

Further along we come to a large piece of the old wood dock that was somewhat still intact, though in much disarray. There is quite a bit of wood here, and it does a beautiful job of illustrating just how impressive the rest of the dock must have been when intact.

This intact wood section also shows us something else of note – the presence of wood structure underneath the concrete. This would suggest that the concrete portion of the dock is just a shell, laid overtop a wood sub structure supporting the concrete from below.

At the end of the dock we find another interesting section, something that looks to be some type of wood-lined channel built into the shoreline. The presence of the pilings just beyond it would suggest this sat within the dock structure itself, and served some particular purpose we couldn’t deduce.

At the other end of that wood lined channel was this opening in the concrete, what looked to be some type of steam tunnel. Its position down along the water line suggested to it once housed some type of pipe, either a drainage pipe that dumped its contents under the dock or some type of feed pipe bringing material out of the lake and up into the complex. (perhaps the complex’s main water line?)

Beyond the channel and pipe tunnel the shipping dock ended, replaced by the gray stamp sands of the shore. Beyond here would have sat the complex’s coal dock, once used to store coal and other raw materials required in the smelting process.

Here’s a map of the Quincy complex to illustrate the placement of both docks in relation to each other and the rest of the complex’s structures. In addition to the dock structure itself, the coal dock also featured an overhead delivery system used to unload the coal from docked ships and dump them into piles below – a structure that does not survive to this day.

Turning back we took another last look at the remains of the old dock sprawled out before us. Its a surreal juxtaposition between the remains here and the sprawling structure that once was, especially when you envision the large freighters and stacks of copper ingots and cakes that would have also been visible here during the complex’s glory days. Now only an empty waterfront and lines of rotting pilings remain. The great ships that once docked here arrive no longer, and will never return again.

Discuss…

  1. It’s amazing to see how big this was.

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