Though only early June the air was thick and heavy – the relief given by the passing breeze now blocked by the dense collection of trees we found ourselves in. The trees were relatively young, with only a select few protruding through the low canopy of green just a half dozen feet above our heads. Threading our way between the tangle of trunks and branches quickly became tiresome, our arms and legs continuously snagged by errant sticks and crooked branches. From time to time the forest thinned, and in the puddles of sunshine that filtered down the thick tangle of trunks was replaced by an even more of convoluted mess of thimbleberry bushes, their broad leaves tacky and unyielding to our movement. Worse yet the ground beneath our feet gargled and oozed with each step – soft, muddy and as wet as the humid air around us.
This was due to a nearby creek which made its way through the thick tangle of trees with far less difficulty then us. The creek was more trickle then stream, yet its presence had managed to turn the surrounding low-lying landscape into the unfortunate swampy mess – a we mess we found ourselves prodding through the early June day. Suddenly the thick foliage was broken as the land picked itself up a slight rise that looked far too straight and uniform to be natural. Working up the rise ourselves we found what looked to be an old road – a pathway that today was sprinkled with trees and even more of those thick thimbleberry bushes. Yet it was encouraging, as we knew that man had once laid his heavy hand here. More encouraging was what we could glimpse further into the woods alongside – what appeared to our eyes as mine ruins.
Though barely visible above the trees, the unmistakable maroon-tinted poor rock wall could easily be seen along with the red-brick trim that most likely topped an old window opening. There was a structure to be found here and unbeknownst to us we had stumbled our way almost right on top of it. Excited with our find we hopped down off the old road’s embankment and once again began our tedious fight with the thick web of trees and underbrush to get a closer look. Here it seemed as though the forest was pushing back on our approach, as if attempting to protect the ruins in their midsts. Yet with some effort we were able to prevail and those ruins spotted from the road began to come into shady view in our path.
What an impressive sight it was as well. Here rising up from a thick carpet of thimbleberry bushes was the stoic stone walls of man – greatly camouflaged by the trees and brush surrounding it. Yet unlike its surroundings this was something not of nature – far more calculated, intentional, and domineering. It helped that those walls were outlined with the vibrant red color of sandstone blocks – a color though natural was largely out-of-place within the encompassing green veil draped before us. The walls beckoned us with their presence, and we happily obliged.
Up close those sandstone highlights are even more vibrant – almost glowing in their dull gray poor rock enclosure. Though bright, their surfaces are heavily scarred by the passage of time – water and ice having sculpted their surfaces with dimples and waves of stone. While beautiful these stones were placed here for more functional reasons – as they could be better cut to form the right angle required at the building’s corners. Known as Quoins they were an essential component of any masonry structure.
As for the rest of the soaring walls of the ruins in front of us they were erected from what looked to be poor rock – rock without copper discarded as waste at a mine site. Those walls of rock rose over 15 feet above our heads – its bulk beginning to compete with the rest of the forest canopy it. This portion of wall featured two openings – both of which of a size and shape that suggested they once framed doorways. One of the doors was at ground level while the other sat further up – perhaps a loading dock of some type.
Like the building’s corners those doorways were also lined with sandstone blocks – giving them a very distinct look along the rather plain gray wall facing the rest of the structure. Those sandstone blocks continued along the top of the opening, gracefully laid along a gentle arch. Such attention to detail would suggest this building housed something important – the walls that encompassed it serving as a monument of prestige for what lied within.
Though the doorway was inviting, we first took a walk around the building’s footprint to wee just how large and encompassing it all was.
Unfortunately that soaring stone wall we first encountered seem to peter out as we headed deeper into the woods – with only this far truncated version taking up residence further along its length. It looked like we had reached the end of the ruins but in the far distance we could make out even more walls barely peeking out of the foliage. These looked to be part of a second neighboring building – too far away from our first set of walls to be connected. It looked as if our single ruin had turned into a collection.
This wall looked just as large as the one we had found previously, but with far more window openings appearing along its length. This wall featured brick highlights along the top of its openings instead of the sandstone we found earlier. The poor rock used here was different too – its color being a bit lighter with less mortar seen between the stones. These characteristics would all suggest that our assumption was correct and this was a separate building. Unfortunately the landscape here dropped into a deep overgrown ditch running alongside the building, making a closer inspection too difficult to attempt. So instead we kept bushwhacking through the woods to find what else there was to find.
Turns out quite a bit.
Not before long the forest thinned out around us and the thick foliage was cleared away to reveal a stone tower rising up out of the greenery. This we recognized right away – its rectangular bulk having once served as the base to a boiler stack. The stack itself would have risen from the structure’s top, but has no doubt been removed or fallen in the decades that followed the building’s abandonment. This would suggest that this particular building was some type of boiler house. If that was the case then it stood to reason that the first building we found may have been some type of engine house – housing either a compressor or hoisting engine.
With a quick look off to our right, however, all that changed…
Standing tall like some overgrown medieval castle was yet another line of soaring rock walls – these far larger and encompassing then any we had encountered thus far. Here the sandstone highlights were back, making it look as if we had found the opposite side of the first set of walls we spied earlier. Yet something was a bit off here, as these walls were partially covered by a thin layer of mortar and featured a series of parallel horizontal boards attached to their face. These were characteristics not of an outside wall but an inside one – meaning we were looking out at the interior of a building not an exterior. Due to the proximity of all the walls we have seen thus far this meant that we weren’t looking at several separate structures, but instead had stumbled upon one large single structure instead. This was no moon – it was a space station.
Turns out that these ruins were no mine at all. In fact these ruins sit along a desolate stretch of road far removed from any known copper deposit and miles from the nearest town. Though remote this far-flung location was not always so desolate, as these ruins reside within the long forgotten town of Lakeview – a largely residential community established around 1894 along a high ridge overlooking Lake Superior to the north-west of the booming Metropolis of Calumet. Though platted and a small street grid laid out, only a handful of homes ever took up residence here. The only resident of note largely being the building whose ruins still mark the old town site still today.
That resident set up shop here not for that view of the lake but for what flowed nearby – a spring fed stream which could provide a constant supply of fresh clean water. It was that same creek along which we trudged as we made our way through the surrounding woods – a creek whose name today is a reminder of that old Lakeview resident whose ruins we currently found ourselves standing in awe in front of. The creek name is Brewery Creek, and the building standing tall in front of us was the remains of the Calumet Brewery.
To Be Continued…