When the Marquette, Houghton and Ontonagon Railroad arrived to Houghton around 1883 the line’s terminus was at the eastern outskirts of the city, several blocks distant from downtown. This small wood-framed structure sat along the line at the MH&O’s main rail yard at the base of the hill along College Avenue. When the Duluth South Shore and Atlantic Railroad bought up the MH&O the depot would become known as the DSS&A depot. For a time this was the city’s only rail depot, until the rail bridge was completed and the Mineral Range brought its line into the city. Unlike the horrible location the DSS&A endured to the east, the Mineral Range depot had prime location at the base of Huron Street right in the heart of downtown.
While location may have been prime, the new depot itself was something else to be desired. Really just an old converted warehouse the building did little to raise the Mineral Range’s image above its ore-carrying routes. With the arrival of the new Copper Range line and its grand depot at the end of the century, the Mineral Range found itself suddenly in competition for passengers. A new depot was in order, one that could put the Copper Range building to shame and make a strong statement about the Mineral Range (DSS&A by that time) and its services. Thus the new Mineral Range depot was born. A station that amazingly still stands today.
This new grand depot could never be confused as a converted warehouse, as it was built in a style synonymous with passenger depots all across the country. Built of locally quarried sandstone, the building’s squat and narrow footprint was topped by an oversized hipped roof that extended far beyond the building’s outer walls. This oversized roof helped create shelter above the stations adjacent platforms. Topping it all was a classic cupola rising up out of the roof’s center. (the small addition on the right side of the building is a recent addition built to mimic the original structure)
Like found over in Calumet at its Mineral Range depot, that oversized awning was supported by large wood brackets set atop small sandstone bases protruding out from the walls. Though the awning surrounded the entire building, the platform itself was on the structure’s north side – seen in the photo above. Here was were the railroad’s main line ran, with only a short spur line sitting at the opposite side of the building.
The building featured five rooms. On the east end – seen in the photo above – was a small sunken room housing the building’s boiler plant. Next door – where you see that large double door – could be found the baggage room. Beyond it (at the far end of the image above) was two large waiting rooms, one dedicated to the ladies while the other was for the general ridership.
Rounding out the rooms was the ticket office, which was located within an octagonal space sitting between the two waiting rooms. Here is the outside facing part of that room, which I would guess could be used by passengers to buy tickets without going inside the building.
Here’s a look at the building west end, showcasing the depot’s slim footprint. This end of the building housed the women’s waiting room. I believe the window might have opened to a bathroom originally.
After its role as the Mineral Range depot, the structure would continue to serve Houghton’s rail passengers for several more decades as the Soo Line’s main depot, the railroad that would follow the Mineral Range and DSS&A. The station would continue to operate well into the 20th century, closing I believe sometime in the late 70s. As was usually the case the old depot would stand empty and forgotten for many years, soon to suffer the same fate as many of its Copper Empire contemporaries. Fortunately the building was bought up by the Yalmer Mattila construction company to serve as its new company headquarters. The decaying building was repair and renovated into office space, its sandstone walls and oversized roof returned to their former glory.