The Calumet Brewery out in Lakeview served the residents of the Red Jacket metropolis for a quarter of a century, a history of brewing that was not without its setbacks. In fact the Calumet Brewery once was known as the Miswald Brewery, back when it was owned and operated by a pair of brothers out of Ontonagon. The brothers, however, suffered from an incurable case of bad luck and would suffer not just one disastrous fire in their brewing career, but three. First their original brewery in Ontonagon was destroyed, then their beer depot in L’Anse was burned to the ground. Then in 1899 fire struck a third time – this time destroying their recently built Lakeview operation. That last fire wiped the brothers out, both financially and emotionally. Out of luck, out of money, and out of patience the brother abandoned their ill-fated venture and left the region to never look back.
The brother’s were so done with brewing they made no attempt to salvage anything from their destroyed brewery. All the building’s machinery and equipment was simply left as it was including its collection of large fermenting tanks along with the beer inside them. The presence of that beer would be quite the pleasant experience for a party of berry pickers that happened upon the ruins several months later. The berry pickers took upon themselves to empty those vats, resulting in a whole different type of party to occur – a party that continued for quite some time until the old beer had been completely salvaged.
Fast forward a quarter of a century and once again the old brewery finds itself abandoned along the roadside. This time it was not fire that brought its end but Prohibition, a decades worth of time when the brewery was considered an illegal operation by the United States Government. Prohibition would eventually end, but it would be too little to late for the aging structure. The Calumet Brewery had been left empty and derelict for too long and was little more then a shadow of its former self by that time.
As we approached the old ruins nearly a century later we were not nearly as lucky as those berry pickers of old – as there were no beer vats to be found and not a drop of alcohol to drink. Apparently lessons were learned from that infamous berry picking session, as this time the old brewery’s equipment was removed soon after its closure. In fact, very little of the old complex remains at all – as large portions of its structure are missing from the scene today. In the decades since its abandonment, the brick-built portions of the building – including its soaring stack – were systematically removed. Additionally a large portion of the brewery’s front facade was also removed, most likely necessary to salvage the brewing equipment found inside. In the end the once sprawling and soaring complex had been reduced to what looked to be just the remains of a pair of masonry buildings sitting about a hundred feet apart.
Here’s an overview of what the ruins look like today – showing clearly the “two building” remains that stand at the sight today. On the south end stands the two-story masonry walls of the brewery’s office wing – the rooms inside lit by a generous amount of window openings lining those walls. At the opposite end stands the one story masonry walls of what most likely was the complex’s stock house – a pair of windowless rooms on the building’s north end. Between them sits essentially nothing more then a sprawling pile of debris broken up by a few straggling broken wall sections. This center section features the remains of the building’s smoke stack base as well as an engine foundation, meaning that within this area of the building could be found the complex’s boiler and engine house.
Here’s those two “building” sections of the ruins as seen from the neighboring road. On the left stands the offices section, characterized by the row of brick-capped windows along its facade. In contrast on the right stands the windowless walls of the stock house section. This section of the building would have been capped by an addition couple of floors made of brick – floors now missing.
Between these sections was originally a connecting wall made of sandstone – a wall added later in the building’s life during its 1910 renovation I believe. A wall that happened to just be in the way when it came to removing the equipment found on its other side.
A small portion of that old sandstone wall can still be found attached to the stock house end of the ruins (outlined in white above). Though tied into the neighboring wall in spots, you can still see how that stock house wall once ended just before the sandstone starts – which is why I believe this missing sandstone wall was a later addition. Also seen here up top are a few brick remnants of those upper floors – now missing from the scene.
Moving past that missing sandstone wall we entered the complex’s center section which today is buried by a thick layer of concrete, brick, and stone debris – remains of the building’s walls and roof. The space is lined on its north end by the towering masonry wall of the stock house portion of the complex – a continuous wall of rock broken only by a pair of doorways and a line of sandstone slicing through its half-way mark. This sandstone line was once the outer corner of the brewery – a corner now attached to a wall. This represents yet another addition to the complex in its life, an addition to its west end doubling the size of the stock house and forming the “L” shape the ruins now take the shape of.
Looking to the left from the previous view we look down the length of the building into that “L” addition to the west. A second opening can be found along with a portion of a back wall in the far distance. Before that, however, we find another wall cutting its way down the spaces center – a concrete-faced masonry structure seen off to the left.
Though not substantial at first, the wall grows in size as it heads southward towards the office end of the complex. Besides its dangerous lean, the wall also sports a collection of nails sprouting out of its surface. These most likely held in place a decorative wall covering – perhaps a layer of wood wainscoting long rotted way or removed for reuse.
Here’s a look at the opposite side of that wall – a portion of it laying on its side nearby. This was originally an outside wall to the brewery in its Miswald configeration, you can make out an old window opening still in its center. Today however, another wall stands about a dozen feet behind this one, meaning the space we were standing in to take this picture was a back room added during the brewery’s renovation.
That new back wall features this large doorway – an opening we had already photographed from the outside in a previous post. This doorway sits at the complex’s west end and looks out to what was once Michigan Street but is now just a lush thick forest. Its an impressive opening, lined with bright sandstone blocks and topped by an arch of cream colored brick. It also sits a good half dozen feet in the air, making it either a loading door or perhaps some type of large window opening.
Turning around from that door opening we once again find ourselves looking down the long masonry wall of the stock house section of the complex – tipped by the narrow white washed sandstone portion of that missing center wall. From this angle the complex’s immense size is dominating – this was a far larger space then one would first think when spying the ruins from the road. As to what this entire space was used for I’m not sure, but we decided to move on by taking a peek inside those doorways littered along the stock house wall.
A peek through the first door brings to view a heavily overgrown space filled with a tangle of trees and brush in its center. Here the walls are washed with that same concrete facing and the sea of nails we found along that old outside wall found next door. Even with all its walls intact this room was well lit, helped by the missing roof above our heads of course but also by the pair of openings on the outside walls. One of those openings can be seen here – a small doorway peering out to the neighboring forest. This door was far lower then the door we found earlier, and was most likely a loading door to bring items into this room for storage.
This window still sported its wood frame, and we could see the sandstone blocks and brick arch which surrounding it on the wall’s other side. Whatever was stored in this room obviously didn’t need to be kept dark or cold, as this window and the door would bring both light and heat into this room. I doubt any beer was stored here, instead it may have been a store room for the malt or some other ingredient.
A second window could also be found here, though this one is sealed with stone. This opening looks to have once been found on the building’s exterior, but is in fact now facing another room. Once again we find evidence that this back section of the building was a later addition, as this interior wall was obviously once an exterior one.
Leaving this room we head next door to the next room of the stock house – this one looking a bit different on its inside.
Here we find not white washed walls but instead soaring plain rock walls etched with several parallel notches in its surface. Further down a series of large rectangular openings can also be found – openings that most likely housed large timbers to hold up the floor. Those notches, however, are something else entirely. Too close together to be floors, my guess is that they once supported wood shelves embedded into the walls – shelves to support beer barrels perhaps?
Unlike the room next door, this one has no windows or doorways save for this small window opening found down near the floor. This opening would sit below the floor level of the room however, and most likely was a basement window. This would mean that the room with all the shelves was closed off to the world, dark and cool enough to perhaps store the finished beer.
Leaving the stock house section of the ruins behind we head southward towards the office section of the brewery. But before we could arrive a few more interesting remnants first garnered our attention…
To Be Continued…