Prosperity Lost (p5) – The Laurium Village Hall

With the old village of Calumet’s transformation into the village of Laurium, the newly minted village government built a modest two story wood-framed building to house the fire department and village offices. As the village grew so too did the village hall, with multiple renovations and additions culminating in the impressive four story towered behemoth seen in the image above. In addition to its municipal duties the building also served as an opera house, complete with stage and balcony seating. In 1914, however, this interesting structure was re-engineered into the sandstone-clad beauty we find along Hecla Street today.

Supposedly the new structure is simple a re-face of the original, though it would appear the old building’s top floor was also removed during the refit. Also removed was the old stage and opera house seating, replaced by general office space and storage. Finally the central tower was removed as well, though in this case the new structure made an improvement.

While the old centralized tower was rather rudimentary, this new tower was something a bit more aristocratic looking more like something off of a medieval castle. A ample supply of rusticated sandstone and protruding blocks helps to solidify the effect, creating one of the most unique architectural elements to be found anywhere in the Keweenaw. At least in my opinion.

While originally the building’s upper floors housed an opera house, today these top levels are home to offices and storage rooms mostly.

Between those floors lies this large sculpted medallion, one of the few decorative pieces to be found on the rustic castle exterior.

Up on top you’ll find the worn remains of another decorative features – a nameplate. The plate was carved out of sandstone, and as such has not survived the last century too well. But if you look real close you can still make out the words “city hall” just above the window.

Down on the first floor the main entrance is surrounded by a protruding archway built of stone. At the base of the “columns” are a pair of date stones, one with “A.D.” carved into it and another with the building’s construction date of “1914”.

That archway above the main entrance is embellished with a great deal of ornamentation, amazingly all the result of detailed carvings and arrangements of the sandstone itself. A stark contrast to the pre-fab terra-cotta tiles or tin accents most buildings would have utilized, and an example of just how much craftsmanship went into this building.

That entranceway is part of a new addition added to the original building during its sandstone facelift, an addition that housed council chambers and various village offices. For some reason the architects felt it necessary to put a fake window opening on the outside wall here, which makes very little sense. I suppose its possible that there was a window here at one time, but later it was filled in with sandstone. Considering the sandstone closely matches the rest of the facade, that fill-in procedure must have been done rather early in the building’s life.

Along with that entranceway, the building’s first floor is also home to a trio of garage bays used originally by the fire department. Today the space is utilized by the police department – as indicated by the 50s era fluorescent sign hanging above them.

The most interesting aspect of this great building is the sandstone itself, considering by the time the structure was erected most of the local sandstone quarries had closed up shop. Rumor has it that the sandstone used for this building was in fact reclaimed from the city’s vast network of sandstone gutters it had installed years previously. Those gutters were pulled out and replaced with concrete, and the sandstone sent here to face this new village hall.

Of course all the gutters in the village would hardly be enough to build an entire building with, and in the end only the front facade received the red stone treatment. The rest of the building – as seen here – kept its more modest wood frame and shingled structure.

Such a prestigious structure may seem out of place considering the scope of the building’s we’ve featured so far from Laurium’s commercial district. While the village hall may be a bit out of their league, it actually fits right into the type of buildings to be found just next door. This is because our tour has brought us to Laurium’s main intersection – Hecla and Third – where the village’s most impressive buildings can be found. Sitting right next door to the village hall is the first of these impressive structures – the State Savings Bank building.

Discuss…

  1. Actually, the opera house remains largely unchanged. It has a flat floor, without fixed seating, but it has a great proscenium stage and balcony. Next time you’re in town during business hours, stop by and check it out. Definitely worth a look.

    • Thanks Jeremiah, to be honest I hadn’t ever been up there. I assumed that they would have removed it long ago and all the time I lived in Laurium I never heard of the stage being in there. Oops!

  2. It looks like there were several changes made along the way. The center tower of the first version was for hose drying so the fire hoses did not rot. Where would the horses have been housed then? Did they have “pull through” access for fire engines? The present version does not look like the tower was ever used for hose drying so where and when did they move the fire house? Or did they make another relationship for fire fighting?

    ashcat

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