Prosperity Lost (p2)

As was the case with most of the Copper Country’s growing communities, the commercial district of early Calumet was molded by only a handful of influential people. In addition to Mr. Vivian, who we discussed earlier in this series, Larium’s early years was also greatly influenced by an entrepreneurial Italian immigrant by the name of Michael Richetta. Mr. Richetta was involved in a great deal of Laurium’s commercial institutions, including being a director of the First National Bank, serving in village government, and helping establish the Italian Mutual Fire Insurance Company. Mr. Richetta partnered with his brother – Angelo – in several lucrative ventures that accumulated in his financing of the large three-story sandstone block that bared his name.

Most of that money came from his work in this empty parking lot, where the Richetta Bros Livery was located. The large wood framed building that once stood here catered to quite a few businesses in addition to the livery itself, including the Richetta’s undertaking business and blacksmith shop. Also on this spot – sitting in front of the livery – was a small wood-framed building that housed a barbershop run by a Mr. MacGowan. Both buildings were torn down long ago, leaving behind only this large parking lot used today by the Irish Times restaurant next door. In the livery’s absence another interesting building has been revealed, sitting at the back right corner of the picture seen above.

This unique two-story concrete-block building looks to be an oversized garage, and that’s exactly what it was. Old maps mark it as a “vehicle house”, and its location at the back lot of a residence would make me think it served as a garage. It’s also possible that the building served the Richetta Bros, as in addition to a horse livery advertisements of the time also list “auto livery” in their description. Since an auto-livery is just a fancy name for a garage, and this building sits so close to the Richetta properties I still think it’s a very good possibility that it belonged to them.

What did belong to the Richetta Bros is this old building, originally built to house Michael Richetta’s saloon. This building is the birth-place of the Richetta empire, as it was the first of the brothers’ many business ventures to make their mark on the burgeoning village. The building was built around 1890, and in addition to housing the Richetta Saloon on the first floor, Michael Richetta himself lived in the second story apartment for many years. In the end this is the only one of the Richetta’s conclave of businesses and buildings to have survived the last century of Laurium’s existence. The great Richetta Empire that once included a livery, saloon, undertaking business, blacksmith shop, and three story sandstone commercial block has been reduced to only this rather impotent wood-framed building.

Across the street things aren’t that much better.

Sitting just to the north of the grand Vivian building sits a rather large parking lot that takes up three commercial lots. All three of these lots were once occupied by buildings, but over the years have fallen victim to fires and the wrecking ball. In order from south to north these buildings housed a drug store (Laurium Pharmacy), Protegere confectionary, and the Eggenm and Hoyam bakery. All three of these buildings were gone rather quickly, having been gone well before the 1990’s. The parking lot served the rehab center in the old Vivian store today.

At the end of the large expanse of destroyed wood-framed commercial buildings sits one lone survivor – a meandering structure that served a cobbler and a confectioner (a black smith shop was also once located on the property). The confectioner was run by a Mr. Wilson Ambrose, who primarily sold books and stationary. Today the building has been converted into a private residence, and its front facade has been greatly altered.

Joining the Wilson Building are a pair of old structures that have also managed to survive into this century, though barely. On the right is the old Schmalzel Saloon and next to it what may or may not be the one story Munro Block.

This two story sandstone commercial block housed several saloons in its day, including one operated by a Mr. LaPointe and later by a Mr. Schmalzel. More recently the building was home to Laurium Hardware (when a large faucet graced its front facade) and a Video rental place. Today it serves as a recording studio.

Built around 1898, the building has not aged particularly gracefully. The storefronts and upper windows have partially been filled in, while the decorative tin cornices have become horrible rusted and pitted, and in some parts falling off in chunks. The sandstone itself hasn’t weathered too well either, with a great deal of flaking and cracking marring the blocks.

Yet even through all the grime and decay, the old building’s original charm still manages to shine through the grime is you look carefully enough. Here a closer look at that rusting cornice reveals some nice details preserving some of the building’s original prestige.

Such can’t be said for the building’s neighbor to the north, however, as it has been totally transformed by well intentional “modernization” efforts. The building is labled as the Munro Block in old Polk Directors, though they could have been referring to the now absent building next door. It seems odd to me that a simple one story building – as this one is – could be considered a “block”. Block or not, the building originally served as home the F.H. Lantz and Co. grocer and meat market along with the Foisy Instrument shop. Most recently – as evident by the inscription across its top – the building served as a senior center (which along with Teen Center is the harbinger of death for old buildings). Today the building stands empty.

While this side of Hecla is only a sliver of its former self, the opposite side of the street has faired a little bit better. We’ll take a look at what remains there on the next post…

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