The Scott Hotel

In 1906 the Copper Country was all grown up. As the new century dawned what was once nothing more then a frontier mining camp had matured into a modern metropolitan region and home to the state’s third largest population cluster. Along with its rise to prominence came a equally strong regional pride – as men looked to honor and serve their adopted homeland in any way they could.  For men with means – those businessmen and entrepreneurs that made their fortunes off of the great copper empire – that usually meant the financing of some incredible piece of masonry architecture within the region’s growing cities and towns. In addition to providing  commercial and residential space,  these soaring brick and sandstone structures also served as monuments to the greatness that had become the Copper Country – gleaming examples of the region’s economic prowess. These gleaming monuments include such grandiose buildings as the Calumet Theatre, Houghton’s Douglass House, or Laurium’s terra cotta embellished First National Bank Building.  For Hancock that prestigious structure was the massive five story brick behemoth known as the Scott Hotel.

The Hotel Scott was the brainchild of one of Hancock’s most prominent citizens – Archibald J. Scott.  A.J. Scott was a Canadian immigrant who first arrived to the region in 1866. After spending some time at a Houghton sawmill, Mr. Scott headed across the pond to take a job as a clerk at a Hancock drug store. Mr. Scott would later enter politics, becoming Hancock’s village president/in 1897 and serving in such a position for a total of ten years. Along the way Mr. Scott gained ownership of his own pharmacy business, one that provided enough income to allow him to finance a three story brick commercial block of his own along Quincy Street – a building known as the Scott Block.  While impressive at the time,  the Scott Block would be outclassed in every conceivable way by what Mr. Scott would erect a decade later at the intersection of Quincy and Reservation Streets.

oldscott

The Scott Hotel was not just another brick commercial block – it was the largest and tallest building to have ever been built at the time of its construction. A total of five stories in height, the brick building featured a sandstone clad first floor featured an unique corner storefront anchored by a oversized granite column. Up front a massive four story veranda graced the building’s Quincy Street facade graced by lines of capital-capped columns and decorative balustrades. While its first floor provided space for four commercial storefronts, the building’s main occupant was its namesake – the Scott Hotel.

The impressive size and scope of the Scott Hotel was designed to make a statement, one of class, modernity, and prestige. It was a hotel built not for the common man but for the uncommon man. This was a first-class hotel catering to first-class people – mine managers, businessmen, politicians, leaders and celebrities. It featured over a hundred rooms – many with grand views out across the Portage Valley and beyond. Steam heat and electric light was standard. In addition to those rooms the hotel offered many additional amenities including a first class kitchen and dining room, barbershop, saloon, and cafe. A staff of 25 catered to your every need, making it the second largest hotel in all the Copper Country – just behind the Douglass House across the canal in Houghton.

middlescott

The Scott Hotel would continue to grace the busy intersection for over a half century – though not always showing the same face. By the later teens the old hotel had lost its signature four-story veranda and was instead sporting a far more subdued one-story inclosed version along its second floor. Also gone were those capital-topped supporting columns, replaced with far more utilitarian brick pilasters. Yet the building would gain its oversized billboard atop its crown – one advertising the hotel’s name in story-tall lighted letters.

badscott

The hotel would continue to serve the city for another fourty years, though by that time most of the building’s charm had been worn away along with its missing second floor veranda – now just a white scar on the building’s brick facade. Also missing is the hotel’s long time companion which had sat next door since its original construction – the Kerredge Theater. It was the early 1960s and the Kerredge had just been destroyed thanks to a disastrous arsonist sparked fire. Though the hotel would be spared it would unfortunately suffer over $100,000 worth of smoke and water damage.  The hotel was never able to fully recover and would close its doors for good several years later.

Though the hotel may have been closed, the building would continue to house tenants within its first floor storefronts in the years to follow. Most notable was the building’s role as the home to Hancock Hardware, who would occupy the building up until 2006. Unwilling to allow the once grand building to become abandoned and derelict, concerned citizen and businesses came together to save the historic structure and give it new life as an apartment building catering to low-income seniors. $4.2 million dollars later and the old Hotel Scott had been transformed into the new Scott Building.

The Old Scott Hotel

Here’s the Scott Hotel as it looks today after its lengthy and expensive renovation. Along with converting the old hotel’s collection of hotel rooms into 26 multi-room apartments, the building’s Quincy Street storefronts were also given a much-needed facelift along with the cleaning of a century’s worth of soot, car exhaust, and grime from the building’s facade. While the building’s iconic front veranda was not replaced, its Quincy Street storefronts were returned to something more resembling their original incarnation.

cornerstore

Those newly renovated storefronts included the building’s original corner entrance, complete with a reproduction of the granite column which once graced it. When this photo was taken the storefront was home to a Mexican restaurant, but a century ago it was a Western Union office. Years after it would be home to the Hancock offices of the Detroit & Northern Michigan Building and Loan Association – later known as D&N Bank.

frontfacade

Up above those storefronts we find what would have once been the stomping grounds of the hotel itself. With the first floor taken up by storefronts, the Scott Hotel’s main floor was in fact the building’s second floor. It was along this floor  that the hotel’s main lobby, kitchen and dining room were once located. The rooms themselves would occupy the two three floors of the building – the floors marked above with a large gap of windows along their face. That gap of brick marked by location of the building’s most interesting features – a three story light shaft which occupied the building’s interior. Capped by a large glass skylight the light shaft allowed natural light and fresh air to reach the hotel rooms lining the building’s interior.

That brick gap also marks the location of the old stairways which accompanied the outside verandas which once graced the facade here. While the verandas are gone, the faint outline of those stairs still remain etched along the bricks on the third and fourth floors.  Because of those missing verandas this facade of the building is rather un-ornate. To find some architectural charm you have to look to the building’s non-veranda facades – starting at its sandstone-graced corners.

corner

While the Scott Hotel’s forward facade had those stacked verandas, the rest of the building relied on more traditional architectural elements to give the building some distinction. At the corners those elements included these staggered sandstone quoins along with a series of complimenting sandstone belt courses marking the building’s floors. More sandstone can be seen atop the window openings as well.

cornice

High up top the entire structure is capped off by this oversized overhanging cornice – seen here before being covered in a new black paint job. Made out of tin, this monstrosity consists of a large overhanging cap carried by several scrolled brackets along with detailed frieze featuring a motif of curved leaves and flowers.

lobby

Out back the hotel makes its way up the neighboring hill on which Reservation Street runs, bringing into view this rear entrance. This was originally the main entrance to the Scott Hotel itself, with its lobby sitting just up a short flight of steps. Today this is the entrance to the senior apartments. The awning hanging over the entrance is a reference to a similar awning that once covered the entrance back when the hotel was in operation – though that awning was much larger and extended out almost over the road itself.

side

Over on the opposite side of the building we find something a bit less refined. No sandstone belt courses or headers here, the windows instead being capped by just arches of brick. When built this side of the hotel faced the neighboring Kerredge Theater and as such any architectural details were unnecessary. I would assume that the rooms here were the cheapest of the lot, considering how they looked out on a soaring brick wall of the theater. With the theater now gone, however, these windows have far better views.

finalimage

Stepping back for a wider view finds the old Scott Hotel to be quite the intimidating landmark. Though not particularly interesting architecturally, its just a massive structure through and through. Its five stories towers over the rest of Hancock’s downtown, and even the soaring bell tower of the old Finnish church behind it looks diminutive in comparison. That size would have been sorely missed if the building had been allowed to disintegrate away, as its demise would have left a gaping whole in both Hancock’s skyline but also a commercial thoroughfare already heavily pitted and scarred by fire and abandonment. Thankfully thanks to forward minding civic leaders and private developers the old hotel can continue to anchor Hancock’s downtown for another century or more.

Discuss…

  1. I remember back in 1968, I think, Dr. Winkler from L’Anse owned the building and donated it to Suomi College. Dr. Winkler thought it would make a good dorm for the college to not make it necessary for them to build another dorm. I wonder how different it would be if Suomi had followed up on the doctor’s wishes.

  2. Paulette Delor Green

    I would give my eye-teeth to live in this building now. I’m a “low income senior” but can’t even get them to respond to email inquiries about getting on a waiting list!!

    • This is an unfortunate side effect of utilizing some public funding in the rehabilitation of historic buildings. In this instance, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) is responsible for much of the government red tape. The property management company that oversees the tenants has to be MSHDA approved. I don’t know who is handling the apartments at the Scott Building today, but for many years it was a company that was not in the Copper Country – and customer service was not a priority. Sorry to hear of your difficulties. Please understand that it’s very likely not a local entity that is not being responsive. I realize that it doesn’t make it any better for you – I’m just trying to shed some light on this, because this is an issue that many in local government desire to see improved at the state level.

  3. Nice article. I remember as a young kid going with my mom into the building. She was meeting with a tax accountant. A young Dick Storm was working at the radio station there. He gave me a long sheet of news from the ticker machine to bring to school for show and tell. I thought I had the best exhibit to bring!

  4. I remember the towers on top of the building with large search lights, said to be designed to shine on the Houghton Sands for night airplane activity. The hotel manager in the early 1950’s was an ex Air Force pilot that had trained in Jenny’s and went to France in WWI with the same squadron as Eddie Rickenbacker. I do not remember his name.

  5. I wonder if they have a memorial of some sort in the room Moyer was shot?

    • Not yet. It’s an opportunity waiting for someone to champion it. It’s been discussed numerous times, probably for decades. My knowledge of the fine details of the accounts of the incident is very limited. My recollection is that, even if there is consensus on what room Moyer was in, there may be some question as to whether the gun discharged in the room or the hallway. That said, given the changes to the floor plan, the entire area of interest may be within the same residence today.

      On a related note, the current owner of the Scott Building is heading a group involved with placing a granite monument containing the names of the victims at the Italian Hall memorial site this year.

Leave a Reply

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