When the Copper Range reached its northern terminus at Houghton it built itself a sprawling lakeside rail yard just west the city. It complimented that yard with a passenger depot, but not just any depot. While along the rest of its tracks the company erected rather modest wood framed one-story buildings for its depots, at Houghton it built a building deserving its metropolitan location. The result was a grand two-story brick station beautifully accented with sandstone quoins, lintels, and belt courses. Of course it had to be beautiful as it also served as the railroad’s main offices; there was the railroad’s public image to keep in mind.
Fast forward a century and you find the old building still standing, looking hardly worse for wear. Of course such a well built structure couldn’t pass into the night easily, as even after the Copper Range closed its doors and the rest of the rail yard surrounding it had been erased from the landscape the old depot managed to survive. After being vacated by the railroad the building would end up serving as a restaurant for some time, resulting in a large addition to its unseen backside. Today the building serves as a doctors office.
Of course a century ago it would be trains and not cars that would park in front of the building’s awning covered front stoop. Along here passengers would step up into cars for trips northward to Calumet or southward through connections with other railroads to almost any other point in the country. For a time the depot was known as the Copper Range Union Depot, for its shared use by both the Copper Range and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad, otherwise known as the Milwaukee Road. The Milwaukee Road offered daily passenger service from the Copper Country to Chicago (and vice versa) along DSS&A and Copper Range tracks.
The first floor of the building was divided up into four sections. To the west (right) was the baggage room, followed by a waiting room (probably for the ladies), the ticket office, and then a main waiting room at the building’s far eastern (left) end. Up on the second floor was various offices for the railroad. The attic space was used for storage.
Here’s a view of the main waiting room, the view from its large compliment of windows hindered slightly by the oversized support brackets holding up the building’s oversized awning. Here you can also appreciate the beautiful sandstone quoins accenting the building’s corners. Its a shame that the awning partially covered these up from the road.
More sandstone quoins can be found along the ticket office area, which protrudes slightly out from the rest of the facade. I would assume that you could purchase tickets inside as well as outside through the two windows seen along the face of the protrusion.
That ticket office protrusion continues up the entire front facade of the building, culminating in a gabled tower rising up above the roof line. Here you can make out even more great sandstone accents; you can also clearly see the effect of weather on the soft red stone. The color difference between what you see above and below the awning is pretty stark. Under the protection of the awning the sandstone (and brick for that matter) is a nice bright and vibrant color while those same elements up above the roof line have been darkened and blackened to a harsher tone.
Up on the second floor we find a good supply of windows just like down on the first floor. Behind these would have been various offices for railroad officials and workers.
Up on the third floor we find a couple of these small wood-framed dormers also graced with a few windows. I believe this third level was just attic space and not used for anything specific. It looks as if that space has been converted into living space at some point in the building’s past, however, and is probably home to office as well now.
Turns out those dormers are actually new additions, added to the building some time after 1917 – when the picture above was taken. Oddly enough the dormers to appear on the old postcard seen at the top of the post. Also different is the landscape in front of the old depot, which was originally covered by a sea of tracks and switches. Things look a bit different today.
Today only a large parking lot covers the landscape today, removing any evidence of what the old building was once used for. Instead of trains its cars that are the transportation method of choice, bringing with it all the baggage that accompanies it.
While the old tracks may be gone, there does remain one other piece of infrastructure that once accompanied the old depot. You just have to look behind the depot into the tree line…
To Be Continued…