CC Top Ten

Top 10 Most Awe-Inspiring Houses of Worship in the Copper Country

The Copper Empire was a massive industrial enterprise, one that required a great deal of manual labor for its operation. As a result the Keweenaw was soon inundated by workers from all across the world, people in search of their own “American Dream” in the new world. At its peak the region boasted over 100,000 people, easily the most populous region of the Upper Peninsula and within the top tier of populous areas for the entire state. This massive population required a great deal of public and private institutions to support it, none perhaps as integral to the region’s cultural identity as the church.

While the residents of the Copper Country were largely Christians (predominantly either of the Catholic or Protestant persuasion), those Christians were heavily segregated by their ethnic differences.  Germans attended German churches, Italians attended Italian Churches, and so forth and so on. While this division may cast doubt on the traditional narrative of the American Melting Pot, it also meant the Copper Country overflowed with houses of worship. In large cities like Red Jacket, this manifested itself most severely with the inclusion of over a dozen Catholic churches alone – not including the dozens of other Methodist or Lutheran churches scattered about as well.

What this all means is that when it comes to making a list of the region’s top houses of worship, whittling such a large list of contenders down to just a few is a rather monumental task. For this list we looked at the most awe-inspiring of these houses of worship – structures that best invoked a sense of the divine and encapsulated  the awe and wonder of the heavens right here on earth. These are architectural triumphs that work to transcend the terrestrial and embrace the celestial in both form and style. At least in my opinion.

Lets begin…

10. St. Cecelia – Hubbell

Starting off our list is this massive wood-framed church occupying  a central position in the old smelter town of Hubbell. While the building’s humble construction offers very little in terms of architectural wonder, its the building’s impressive perch atop a hill high above the town that garners  it a spot on our list. Such a tall perch allows the building to sit high above almost everything else around it, its steeple making a strong visual statement for miles around. Adding to the building’s soaring stature is the tall line of steps that grace its front entrance – a conveyance that works to both physically and metaphorically carry parishioners  upward as the tower above points confidently towards the heavens.

St. Cecelia Church is no longer an active house of worship, and today sits empty. It can be found at the corner of Guck Street and I Avenue in Hubbell – one block up the hill from the highway. 


congregational

9. First Congregational – Lake Linden

Down the road from St. Cecelia stands this impressive architectural gem – a house of worship that was erected by Lake Linden’s upper crust. While not as soaring as its sister to the south, this old home to the First Congregational Church gains a higher rank due to its unique and impressive architectural style. Known generally as “stick style”, this Victorian form utilizes a series of boards attached to its facade to give the illusion of exposed framing. The liberal use of scalloped shingles  and wood cross hatches also makes the church look like some type of gingerbread house – a look that works wonders in elevating the structure from its mundane setting to something more resembling a fairy tale.

The First Congregational Church is now home to the Houghton County Historical Society’s Heritage Center, and is open to the public on a limited basis. It sits at the corner of First Street and N Ave on the south side of Lake Linden – one block from the highway.

baptist

8. First Baptist – Laurium

While there are a great deal of churches to be found in the upper class region of Laurium, only this unique structure managed to make the final cut. Here is a building that looks like no other, a church without a steeple or tower of any kind. Instead its facade is dominated by a massive portico topped with an impressive pediment engraved with the church’s name – the First Baptist. For a summer I use to walk past this dominating entranceway twice a day, each time as equally impressed as I was the time before. Stepping up those steps and under the shade of that massive pediment creates a powerful statement for those entering the structure – exactly the type of awe-inspiring impression this list demands.

The First Baptist Church of Laurium continues to serve the area’s residents, and is a fully operating church with weekly Sunday service. It sits right alongside M26 on the corner of Laurium Street – three blocks west of Laurium’s downtown. 

grace

7. Grace United Methodist – Houghton

Now we find our first masonry church to make the list, and what a beauty it is too. In addition to its beautiful red sandstone and soaring corner bell tower, this church is further elevated – literally – by its perch along a rocky outcropping on Houghton’s north-east side. Its placement along one of the city’s major thoroughfares doesn’t hurt either, bringing its impressive stone walls into view for thousands of passer-bys each day. Its a view that demands your attention, as it did mine each time I drove by as well.

Grace United Methodist is still an active church, having received a hearty addition to its south end to accommodate a growing population. It stands along east-bound US41 (Montezuma Ave) in downtown Houghton, just a block from the start of College Ave. 

stjosephs

6. St. Joseph’s – Lake Linden

This monster cathedral is easily one of the greatest sandstone structures in the region, it two dome-topped towers a particularly unique element not found on most other houses of worship in the region. What hurts its placement on this list, however, is its physical location which places the impressive structure far back from view and partially blocked by trees, power lines, and a rather ungainly brick priests residence attached to its south side. Get close enough, however, and the building is something to behold for sure and deserving a place on this list.

St. Joseph’s continues to serve Lake Linden’s Catholics and continues to hold weekly services. The building sits along M26 in downtown Lake Linden, just a block north of the village’s High School. 

layla

5. St. Ignatius – Houghton

Originally this was Houghton’s only Catholic Church, and as such it was built to be as impressive as it could be. Its incredibly Gothic in style, featuring an array of pointed arched windows, sandstone buttresses, and a soaring central bell tower beautifully adorned with copper pediments. Unfortunately that impressive facade has been largely blocked by the rather ugly and obtrusive covered portico added later in the church’s life. Fortunately the church’s high placement along the hillside above Houghton easily makes up for such an architectural intrusion – the soaring belfry being the tallest structure to be found within Houghton’s limits, and an integral part of the city’s skyline.

Yet another church that continues to serve its constitutes, Saint Ignatius Loyola Church stands tall along Houghton Ave just two blocks east of the county courthouse. 

jacobchurch

4. Finnish Lutheran Church – Jacobsville

At first glance the inclusion of this rather diminutive wood framed structure so high on a list of awe-inspiring churches would seem ludicrous. But while this old Jacobsville house of worship may lack any architectural gravitas, it gushes with something far more impressive – purity. The building sits deep in the woods, shrouded in the greenery of the natural world. Here it sits unhindered by the modern world – no electric lights, no running water, no plumbing, and no wifi. Light is provided only by a oil-burning lamps, and heat by just a small wood stove in the back. Services begin by the ringing of its archaic bell – not by the push of button but by pulling on a long rope dangled down from the belfry. To visit this church is to take a trip back in time, immersing oneself in the comfort of  a slower and far simpler time –  an especially awe-inspring experience that easily garners it a top spot on our list.

This country church is open for services during the summer months, sitting at the end of a narrow two track road off of Jacobsville Road just west of the old quarry town of the same name. 

newstmary

3. St. Mary’s – Yellow Jacket

This small little sandstone beauty was a relative newcomer to the Red Jacket scene, resulting in the structures erection outside of the village limits in neighboring Yellow Jacket. Such an out-of-place placement helps elevate this particular cathedral to a higher place on our list – as its gothic ruggedness contrasts nicely within the residential trappings it finds itself. While the church hasn’t been used for some time, its abandoned and deteriorating appearance only strengthens its charm – like an old medieval castle still standing tall over the homes it once defended.

This old Catholic church is no longer open, having been closed since the 70s. Today its under private ownership, but can easily be viewed from nearby Portland Street just four blocks west of Calumet’s downtown. 

stpaul

2 – St. Paul’s (St. Joseph’s) – Calumet

This is easiest the largest church to have ever been built in the Copper Country, its twin spires soaring over 150 feet into the air. Its an incredibly impressive structure, looming large over the residential neighborhood it serves. Its perch at the end of Oak Street elevated the village of Calumet into metropolitan status by just looks alone – a cathedral one could easily mistake for residing in Chicago or New York. In 1900 it costs over $100,000 to complete – nearly $3 million dollars today.  Its easy to see where all that money went.

St. Paul’s continues to serve as a fully operating church and is open for weekly services. Interior tours are also available during the summer months. It sits at the corner of Oak and 8th Streets three blocks west of Calumet’s downtown. 

stanne

1. St. Anne’s – Calumet

Finally we come to the great granddaddy of them all, the region’s absolute most awe-inspiring house of worship. Most of that title is owed to its incredibly rich gothic parlance – as the entire structure is dripping with gothic sensibilities including robust buttresses, stepped pointed-arched entranceways, and incredibly rich stained glass windows adorning its exterior. Most impressive is its commanding position at the foot of Calumet’s main business district – its rugged tower viewable from all along the once busy thoroughfare. What’s more, its massive bulk sits right up along the road – making everything that passes by feel incredibly small and insignificant in its sky-yearning presence. It’s easily the most awe-inspring church in the Copper Country.

St. Anne’s has been closed for nearly half a century, but today is in incredible shape thanks to its new role as the home of the Keeweenaw Heritage Center. Housing annual exhibits on Copper Country culture the building is open to the public during the summer months. It sits at the head of Calumet’s downtown, at the corner of 5th and Scott Streets. 

Show More

26 Comments

  1. With so many churches to choose from this was indeed a hard list to compile. For those interested here’s a few honorable mentions that just made it out of our top ten:

    11. Our Lady of the Pines – Copper Harbor

    12. Methodist Church – Central

    13. Swedish Lutheran Church – Calumet

    14. Church of the Assumption – Phoenix

    15. Temple Jacob – Hancock

  2. I grew up attending the ‘old’ Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Calumet. It was considered as the Irish church, I believe, and burned down decades ago. I have searched the Internet for a picture of and/or a story about the old church. Would you know where one would be found? Thanks.

    1. Sacred Heart was a beautiful sandstone church in the same style as other great Calumet sandstone houses of worship like St. Anne’s and St. Mary’s. The church did burn down, but still exists in a brand new modern structure built on the site of the old one. Here’s a photo of what it once looked like:

      Sacred Heart Church - Calumet

  3. For information on Sharey Zedek [Gate of Charity] Synagogue in Hurley, WI, on the Gogebic Iron Range, see mattsonworks.com/shareyzedek.html There was also a synagogue in Ironwood, Temple Bethel.

  4. Neat list, Mike. Houses of worship are intrinsically beautiful and you’ve selected some classics. I’d have Temple Jacob higher up due to its uniqueness, beauty (particularly the windows), and location. Our Lady of the Pines and the Central Methodist Church would rank higher if the list was based on charm. But when it comes to awe-inspiring, you’ve excluded a potential #1: Holy Transfiguration Skete. Perhaps left off due to its relative youth.

    Looking forward to your list of the most awe-inspiring houses of worship no longer with us. Everything mentioned here is still standing.

    1. John – Holy Transfiguration Skete is a great house of worship for sure, and I did consider it for this list. But in the end there was just too many smaller houses of worship that I have always admired during my explorations which helped push others off the list. There’s also some personal connections to a few of these that put them higher then most would – Jacobsville (where I went to an actual service once), and the First Baptist (which I walked by and admired daily for several years). Then there’s St. Cecelia which I also admired ever since I took a closer look years ago – mostly for its bulk alone.

    1. That is it! Duh. Did you do a post on it in the past?
      sidenote: is the forum on sebatical at the moment?

    2. Noooooo stupid hackers! I was hoping to go back through a post I had about my UP trip and find some info. We’re heading back up this weekend. Thanks for the church link.

    3. On the forum DC had a lot of good bushwacking info,I would like to read up on an area he took his spidy senses through before I would go.He had a good eye for discovering things,most people would walk right past.Rats…

    4. Hi everyone – the forum is back up and running. Back when it was having issues, I spent days trying to fix it to no avail. Given some time, others were having the same issues so when I Googled it last night the answers were there. It wasn’t a hacking, it was a corrupt file that might have occurred when our web hosting company made an upgrade to their system. After backing everything up and performing a fresh install with a new version, things look to be working as they should. Please let me know if you come across issues and I’m sorry it took so long.

    5. I forgot to mention that for now we are leaving the forum closed to new members. The spammers signing up for the site became too much to moderate. Now that I have some time to devote to this, I will be looking for new forum software that can combat that for us.

    6. Great to hear the forum is alive again! I look forward to allowing new members, I forgot my password and lost access to the email I used when I signed up so I’ve been unable to join in for quite some time.

  5. Trinity Episcopal Church in Houghton, should be in the top ten churches in the Copper Country. It is beautiful on the outside with its sandstone Gothic structure with the impressive altar on the inside featuring a hand carving of stations of the cross. All the hand wood carvings were done in Germany at the turn of the 20th century then installed at Trinity. The stained glass windows are impressive dating back to 1880. The organ at Trinity is impressive also being one of the best in the state of Michigan. Impressive also is the architecture that enabled the installation of a elevator so parishioners could go from the lower level social hall to the church making it barrier free w/o interfering with the design of the building. The church also bought adjacent land and made available parking for the upper level so people could just park at the upper level and go right on in to the narthex. The church was just recently celebrated its 150th birthday. It is a century landmark in Michigan.

  6. Stewart – a passionate argument for sure and very convincing. While Trinity is impressive, it unfortunately does not share the same great location that St. Ignatius and Grace United have been blessed with – high bluffs and dominate positions on their block. As a result Trinity gets lost visually in the houses and other buildings that surround it, blending in with its surroundings and hardly making the same dramatic impact as its neighbors down the road. For the same reason Gloria Dei Lutheran in Hancock didn’t make the list. It has some great architecture, but it tends to get lost between the City Hall, the Middle School, and the soaring D&N Building across the street.

    That’s why St. Cecelia makes this list even though it may be rather underwhelming architectural. What makes it awe-inspiring is its dominate and dramatic location in the residential neighborhood it soars over.

    1. Mike – You’re thinking of First United Methodist, not Gloria Dei, but I agree with your point. It’s a beautiful building that flows with the others on the block as opposed to singularly standing out.

  7. Not a professional with a website. Was born and raised in the Calumet – Laurium area and stumbled on this site. Really enjoy the photos and videos.

  8. Wow, St. Cecelia’s … stirred up memories … student years at Da Tech (early 70s) … pastor Mike Hale (my Dad’s wayward classmate) would pick me up near Ft. Smith, weave our way to St. C’s, and I would play organ for his services. Then off to his lakefront chalet for a shared twelve-pack and hearty steak dinner – what a guy!! One of the many bright spots in my Copper Country years. Thank you for your website :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *