Prosperity Lost (p8)

After passing by the 1st National Bank you find yourself on the north end of 3rd street, and while the village continues for two more blocks up to 1st Street, the commercial district for all intents and purposes ends here. Besides a few buildings just across 3rd, the Laurium Commercial School down on the corner of 2nd, and a few small stores down at 1st, these next two blocks of downtown are essentially deserted of commercial structures.

Looking north from the top of the State Savings Bank, this old postcard provides a good overview of the commercial desolation of Laurium’s northern end. While the south side of 3rd boasted a pair of large and impressive bank buildings, the north side was only home to a pair of small wood framed stores, both originally occupied by general merchandise stores. Past that you find the old Columbia Laundry Building (a business that remarkable is still in business) and across the street the 1st Baptist Church. Further down the line a large turreted home served double duty as an undertaker. And just at the end of view barely visible (and depending on the date of the photo might not even be here) lies the sandstone Laurium Commercial School building (a building we’ve featured on CCE before HERE)

Besides the prominent bulk of the Laurium Commercial School, the only other building of note to have survived the last century relatively intact is this bright blue structure, know home to a resale shop. I’m not completely sure that the building seen here is the same one shown in the old postcard above, while the building is similar in size and shape the false front is missing on this structure and the entrance is on the corner instead of the front. In any case, the building’s most recent occupant was a Montgomery Wards.

Here’s another view of the old building, this one clearly showing the old Montgomery Wards sign which is still attached to the building’s front. I would imaging the addition to the right was added by that institution to make more room for its wares. Recently the building was given a bright blue pain job, which I’m quite sure no matter how old the building is was not its original color.

Across the street we have another old wood-framed building, which currently (well at least back when the picture was taken) housed a party store. The old postcard photo atop this post has a sign on the building denoting it as the “Hopf’s Cash Shoe Store”. Originally the building housed a small grocer, and the Hopf store was located a block to the south. Before its current reincarnation, the building was home to a ice cream shop.

Next door there sits nothing but an empty lot, but up until recently it was home to a small one story building that housed a construction business. While it has been torn down you can still make out parts of its front facade rising up along the sidewalk. As for the old Columbian Laundry much the same, so little remains that I didn’t even take the time to get a picture.

From this point north Hecla Street is dominated by single family homes and duplexes with nothing else of consequence (except for before-mentioned Laurium Commercial School building) to record. While there may not have been any commercial buildings along this stretch of road, at least the homes were occupied and looking in relatively decent shape. The same could not be said for the commercial-centric part of the road to the south – as we have painstakingly noted over the past few weeks. Laurium’s golden age was behind it.

Once upon a time Laurium was a town flush with prosperity and opportunity, its residents some of the area’s most rich and powerful and its commercial district on par with any other in the region. A collection of grand commercial blocks could be found along both sides of the streets, topped by a pair of incredibly opulent bank buildings and a town hall that resembled a medieval castle. Yet when the mines left and the great Copper Empire collapsed, Laurium – along with the rest of the peninsula – was left with only empty buildings and vacant houses. As the decades past these forsaken towns began to fall into disrepair and ruin, their old grand buildings rotting away or burning to the ground. While some towns were able to grasp on to a lifeline and hold themselves up, Laurium wasn’t as lucky. Businesses left, the banks closed, and the grand buildings of its past were demoted from being home to department stores and financial institutions into housing bars and resale shops.

By the time I had arrived to Laurium, the commercial center had but all disappeared. I was only blocks from downtown – walking distance – yet there was never any need to go there since there was nothing I needed there. The town was always deserted, and only the happenstance of the highway passing through town provided the scant traffic you could see. Crumbling sidewalks, broken parking meters, boarded up windows, faded signs, and empty lots were the commercial districts main occupants now. Yet if you looked upward and the buildings that do remain, you can catch fleeting glimpses of the great prosperous village that was. Yet as impressive as those glimpses are, they only result in a greater feeling of loss for what has been forsaken here.

Unfortunately its just par for the course in a region whose industry passed it by.

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  1. I am sorry to report that the party has ended at the party store. Tina (the most awesome owner) finally was forced to throw in the towel, finding it way too hard to fight the downward sucking spiral that is “Laurium’s prosperity lost”

  2. Up until at least the mid-1970s, there was a barbershop and small cinema located just north of the Honey Cone building. The cinema building was later occupied by the woodworking shop. I seem to recollect that Columbia Laundry once occupied the cinema building (or another building adjacent to it) for a few years and might have had a fire at one location on Hecla Street. Columbia has moved around a bit since the ’70s.

    Does the Italian men’s social club still have their meeting space in the basement of the State Savings Bank building/post office? They were still there into the 1990s.

  3. The small cinema next to the Honey Cone was called the “Peoples Theatre”. In the 50’s, I spent many a Saturday afternoon there with Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.
    Also in the 50’s, the bright blue building kitty corner from the State Savings Bank housed Schneller’s Grocery Store. They delivered with a small panel truck.

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