Houses of Worship and Learning

When it came to sheer numbers of houses of worship the booming metropolis of Calumet just was the undisputed champion of the region. Just after the turn of the century – at the Copper Empire’s peak – the bustling village found itself home to over 20 churches, a half dozen of those catering to the Catholic faith alone. This was mostly due to the towns dense mix of ethnicities and cultures, as immigrants from countries all across Europe packed into the village in search of work at the great C&H Mine. There was also the fact that C&H actively promoted and assisted in the construction of those churches, providing land, materials, and even architects in some cases.

Neither of these conditions were present in the neighboring village of Laurium.  While Calumet may have catered to immigrants,  Laurium was predominantly for the region’s middle and upper classes, businessmen, mine captains, managers, bankers, teachers and the like. The town was also not under the thumb of C&H, which meant no free land or materials for any church building there. The same issues hold true for Laurium’s compliment of schools, where unlike Calumet where most schools were built by C&H atop C&H donated or leased land. In Laurium all but one of its schools was built and financed by the village itself.

Here’s a look at what churches and schools did manage to get built within the village limits. In total size churches good up residence here, most of which congregated within the communty’s heart along Tamarack, Hecla, and Kearsarge Streets. The village also boasted a half dozen schools, plus an addition two parochial institutions. These schools were scattered throughout the village, most of them built during the community’s era of expansion between 1895 and 1907. These schools were built where they were needed, as neighborhoods were built and the village expanded.

Now that we know where the village’s compliment of churches and schools were located, lets take a closer look at what remains of those houses of worship and learning.

Laurium’s first church was built in 1895 at the corner of Tamarack and Third Streets, known at that time as the Swedish Mission Church. As its name implied the church was built for the village’s Swedish population, which by that time had began arriving to Laurium due to a lack of housing in neighboring Calumet. The church featured a sixty foot tower at its corner, and its basement housed a small parochial school.

The Swedes would end up abandoning the church around 1921, at which time the  structure was bought by the Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Church, who continue to serve its members out of the century old building still today. Over that time the building has received numerous additions and alterations, most notable of which is a large addition to its front facade. The building’s once soaring tower has also been truncated down to a more shorter stature.  For most of the church’s life it was sheathed in a beautiful wood shingle, but rather recently those shingles were removed for a more modern covering.

Laurium’s oldest surviving house of worship – the First Baptist Church – erecting a simple wood framed structure within the village around 1896. The First Baptist took up residence along the village’s main thoroughfare, Hecla. You can just make out the church’s tower in the old postcard above, though today the lot is now empty. That’s because the First Baptist was the only Laurium congregation to grow large and prosperous enough to build themselves a larger and more impressive structure outside of the village, a beautiful brick and sandstone building that continues to stand to this day at the corner of Depot and 3rd Streets.

As far as the congregation’s original building, it would live on as the People’s Theater. In 1915 the old church’s tower was removed and a large addition added to its backside to accommodate the new moving pictures house. The theater were serve the village for nearly fifty years, closing its doors in the 1960s. The building has since been demolished.

After the turn of the century Laurium would acquire its largest and most impressive church yet. Originally built in 1902, this massive wood framed housed of worship built atop a robust brick foundation was home to the Laurium Methodist Episcopal Church. The church was expanded into its current sprawling form in 1909, featuring a cavernous hall within its soaring roofline capable of seating over a thousand people.

Today the church’s incredible mass is made even more impressive thanks to the collection of diminutive houses that are built right up alongside the structure. The massive space inside can also be appreciated somewhat from the exterior, thanks to the incredibly oversized arched window found at the building’s apex.

As originally built the soaring church featured a central bell tower that rose up from the building’s center over fifty feet. During the 1909 renovation that tower was removed, and in its place a more traditional corner tower seen gracing the church today. This tower was also once rather tall, but its upper sections have since been removed.

Not all of Laurium’s churches were incredibly impressive structures, in fact most worshiped within rather simple and rudimentary buildings. One of those more pedestrian churches can be found along Lake Linden Ave in the form of this gabled-roof and gothic-acrhed window building found at the village’s south-east end. This was once the Finnish Methodist Church, built around 1915. The Finns would later abandon the church as the Copper Empire collapsed, the building becoming home to a generic “Gospel Hall” in the 1940s, a name the building still featured above its doorway still today.

Another rather modest house of worship is the Methodist Protestant Church found at the corner of Iroquois and Fifth Streets. It was built around 1895, consisting of nothing more then a simple gable roofed meeting hall with a few decorative windows. The church would not survive too long, abandoned and converted into a private residence soon afterward.

One of Lauruim’s more impressive churches arrived to the village in 1899 when St. Paul’s Lutheran Church built its soaring home at the corner of Tamarack and Second Streets. This was a German Church, its congregation predominantly consisting of German immigrants. This was the congregation’s second home, built atop a lot donated by parishioner Earnest Bollman whose own house sat across the street.

Here’s St. Paul’s in its original location, along Scott Street in neighboring Calumet. It was built here in 1881, the congregation itself forming a couple years before. Like most Calumet churches the building was built atop donated C&H land. While this is normally considered a good thing, it becomes not so good when C&H decides it wanted that land back for its own purposes. Basically evicted by C&H, the church  packed up and moved itself to more friendly territory in Laurium.

The church wasn’t the only thing to move, however. In addition to the church St. Paul’s also had its own parochial school, run out of a neighboring building that was also in C&H’s way. Laurium the new school would be run out of the new church’s basement for about five years. Then in 1905 the congregation was able to build a new replacement school.

The new German Lutheran School was a rather standard school building, consisting of  two wood-framed stories built atop a sandstone foundation. A central hall and stairwell provided access to the series of classrooms found along the building’s ends. The school would serve St. Paul’s students until about 1929, when it was closed. After that the building served as a meeting hall. Today it sits vacant, though its front lawn is kept neatly cut.

The German School wasn’t the only parochial school found in Laurium. The village also featured the region’s largest and longest living Catholic school – the Sacred Heart School.

Here we find the Sacred Heart School at its peak, a complex that featured three separate buildings at the far south-west corner of the village on the corner of Lake Linden Ave and Boundary Street.  In 1891 the original school was built, which would become the High School when a new grade school was built in 1902. In 1906 a convent was added for the school’s compliment of instructors, nuns from the Sisters of Notre Dame. The schools ended up serving nearly 800 students for the next half a century.

In the early 1950s the original grade school had become too old to function, and a new school was built down the road along US41. The high school would suffer a similar fate in the 1960s and the entire complex would soon be demolished. Today the site is home to the Laurium Senior Housing Center.

Unfortunately the fate of the Sacred Heart School is rather common when it comes to Laurium’s houses of education. At its peak Laurium boasted a half dozen grade schools scattered across its confines, like the Duncan School pictured above. All but one of these schools are gone today, most torn down soon after the war. The only school to survive the last century has unsurprisingly been the village’s only masonry school building – the Charles Briggs School.

The Charles Briggs School was built around 1906, and was the village’s largest and most impressive school building. Built at a cost of over $30,000, the impressive structure featured ten classrooms within its brick and sandstone walls. The school would be the last to serve the village’s students, instructing kids up until 1977 when it was finally closed for good. Though standing, the building is vacant today and sits quietly on its Pewabic corner lot awaiting an unknown future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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