Homes of the Rich and Famous

As with most American communities, the Red Jacket region was starkly divided by class and social standing. While the village itself was predominantly home to immigrants and laborers, the same couldn’t be said for the neighboring community of Laurium. The Beverly Hills of the Copper Country, this sprawling residential area attracted the region’s growing upper class who had begun to gain prominence after the turn of the century. As a newly platted village, Laurium offered plenty of space, wide streets, and a location too far removed from C&H to attract the working class. Thus the village’s abundance of open lots began to fill quickly, and before long the streets were lined by one Victorian masterpiece after another, with more then a few massive mansions thrown in for good measure. Taking a tour of the village today you’ll find many of those old homes to continue standing, though now the rich and famous residents have been replaced by a more modest class. Yet still you’ll find Laurium to exude a reserved air of grandeur and opulence not usually found in the old mining towns of the region.

It was lumber tycoon William Thielman who built this corner turreted Victorian home on a large corner lot along Kearsarge Street. Thielman was born in Detroit, moving up to the upper peninsula where he quit school to work as a teamster and lumberjack. After years of work as a general laborer traveling all across the country, Theilman returned to the Keweenaw to run his own contracting business in Lake Linden for several years. In 1891 Mr. Thielman would help form the Armstrong-Thielman lumber company with partner Thomas Armstrong, using his earnings to build this handsome home in 1902.

One of Laurium’s most impressive homes is this sandstone clad beauty sitting just across the street from the Thielman place. Fitting, really, considering the stone structure was built for Frank Carlton, owner of the region’s largest hardware company – Carlton Hardware. Carlton was a Canadian who arrived to the upper peninsula in 1883. In 1891 he established his fledging business, which thanks to Carlton’s fortuitous decision to go into the wholesale business became very successful in no time. A year after the Thielman place was built, Carlton upped the ante considerably by erecting his own sandstone masterpiece – one that would end up dominating the corner and put the Thielman home into a second tier.

A few blocks away we find a very modest looking home hidden behind a veil of trees. Like the Carlton house the home is built of sandstone, but only on the first floor. The upper floor is more traditional wood, creating an odd juxtaposition of styles that looks more like the owner ran out of money half way through construction. But in reality this was how the house was designed, built for the heir to the Vivian dynasty – Johnson Vivian Jr. Vivian Sr. was English, arriving to the states when he was 24 years old. Having worked in the mines back at his home country, he took up employment in the same here in the upper peninsula working for several area mines including the Copper Falls and Phoenix mines. Later he formed the Vivian Mercantile Business, a company which grew substantially to become one of the largest in the region, building a massive store along Laurium’s main street in 1894. His son would take over the family business and build his home on the corner of 3rd street in 1898.

Though modern additions and renovations have greatly altered this once stately building’s appearance, there still remains enough remnants of its old charm to include it on our list. The building was built by the widow of one of the region’s most brilliant minds – Captain John Daniell. Mr. Daniel was a mine captain and eccentric who help devise the brilliant plan to undermine C&H and create the Tamarack Mine. He would later suffer from a brain tumor that would finally kill him in 1898 – at the young age of 59. His widow would finish their home a few years after his death, around 1901. The building would later be converted into an old folks home, resulting in the ungainly addition seen in right side of the photo above. Today it’s an apartment building.

Not all the wealth represented in Laurium was locally grown. In fact a great portion of the opulent homes to be found in the residential community were built from money earned thousands of miles away – from a dusty corner of Arizona by the name of Bisbee. It was there that another great copper mine would be discovered, one predominately financed by speculators not residing in Boston but more fittingly in the Copper Country itself. This was the Calumet and Arizona Mining Company, and its success would benefit not only the small town of Bigsbee, but more then a dozen businessmen in the Keweenaw who were lucky enough to get in on the operation at the ground floor – men like Mr. Norman Macdonald who built the impressive home seen above. Norman was a druggist, who had started Red Jacket’s first drug store in 1870 and used some of his acquired wealth to invest in the newly started Calumet and Arizona. His investment would pay off handsomely, as it would skyrocket him into the upper crust of Copper Country society and provide him the means to build a 7000 square foot brick mansion along Laurium’s most prestigious street – Tamarack.

Of course not all of the Calumet and Arizona investors were lucky businessmen, some had a good deal of wealth before their Arizona investment paid off. One of those was James Weir Milligan, who was superintendent of C&H mines for nearly 50 years. In addition to his mining work Mr. Milligan also became a founder and Vice President of the Bisbee company, a role that served him well and helped him build this large stately home along Laurium’s newest addition on the east end of 3rd Street.

Gordon Campbell was a prominent area attorney who also invested in the Calumet and Arizona, becoming its secretary before moving up to president in 1921. Upon his ascension in the company he moved out of his first house on Iroquois and moved across the street into this large dark-brick faced building with detached carriage house.

One of the major names associated with the Calumet and Arizona was Hoatson, as several in the family were instrumental in far flung mine’s genesis. The Hoatson’s were Scottish, coming to the Copper Country via Canada around 1872. The elder Hoatson became superintendent for the C&H Mine, a position he held until his death. His two son’s – Thomas Jr. and James – followed in his father’s footsteps and later invested in a mining venture of their own – the Bisbee Mine. The Bisbee became the Calumet and Arizona, and its success brought both brothers great wealth. The younger brother would build one of the largest and most opulent mansions in all of the Copper Country, the great portico fronted masterpiece seen above. The home featured 45 rooms spread out across a spacious 13,000 square feet of space and was built for an impressive sum of over $85,000.

Thomas’s older brother – James – would move into an impressive house of his own, just a block down the street. While not nearly as grand as his younger brother’s, the James Hoatson’s home was still a beautiful home in its own right, featuring a centralized stain-glass topped atrium around which the entire house was built.

Of course the most famous home of Laurium is by far this incredible sandstone beauty residing on quiet corner lot at Laurium’s north end. Known locally as the castle, the building is actually the work of famed local contractor and sandstone artiste Paul Roehm. Roehm was responsible for the sandstone work on several of the area’s most famous landmarks, including the Calumet Theatre, and was the premiere stone mason in the area. To help show-off his talent and abilities, Roehm built himself this ultimate show-home at the head of a newly platted subdivision along the interurban line.

Of course these are only a small sample of the impressive homes that can be found along the streets of Laurium, as even a short tour of the historic village will reveal a dozen more great Victorian era structures. To be sure most of these great homes were built by some of the region’s richest and most elite residents, an architectural whose who of the Copper Country.

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  1. I had a chance to go to Bisbee, AZ. I saw the copper mine there and Bisbee Hotel and they referred a lot to Hoatson and the UP of Michigan. I toured the Laurium also, when we visited the UP. It was interesting to see how they both tied together. The huge open pit copper mines were neat too. A lot of blue and green ground.

  2. love all of them to bad they don’t build them that way any more the houses that are built these day are not as good looking as they were back then in the good old days

  3. It’s very interesting to read all this. Sometimes there are not words to describe the beauty and elegance of an extraordinary place. It proves that old is gold.

  4. I had the pleasure of visiting with Mrs F.S. Carlton years ago in the late 50’s. She described coming to the C.C. via covered wagon from Huntsville, Al. and settling in Eagle Harbor. She said it took all summer.. Very interesting Lady. !!!


  5. Remembering that elegant section of Laurium from when I lived in the area years ago I know that I was too young to appreciate these beautiful homes at the time. I would love to see them again. Such a special place.

  6. Just FWIW, re: Norman MacDonald history and house, the Macdonald family did not capitalize the “D” in their surname. I never knew Norman, but was well acquainted with his daughter, Mary, who is also now deceased. Check the spelling of the “Mary Macdonald Preserve” on the Nature Conservancy’s website.

    Thanks for the great site!


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