The Funkey Block

The fires that ravaged the 200 block of Hancock’s Quincy Street were almost complete in their destruction. Over a dozen 19th century buildings were wiped away, leaving large empty spaces along both sides of the commercial corridor. While new buildings would eventually move into the now open spaces, those replacement structures were often a far cry from the architectural might that had existed before. There does remain two pieces of the 200 block’s old streetscape however. These stand tall at the block’s far western end,  at the corner of Ravine Street. One is a sprawling commercial block that would later receive an impressive new facade while a second served as one of the city’s earliest hotels.

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That hotel was the Gutsch, a high-end hostelry and saloon operated by German born businessman George Alexander Gutsch. Mr. Gutsch was a bit of a revolutionist, quite literally as he was banished from his home country for being part of its revolutionist party. He would come to America as result, ending up in the Copper Country around 1858. He went to work opening a saloon in neighboring Houghton but would end up moving around the region and the country for several years. In 1877 he returned to the Copper Country and opened a new saloon in Hancock along Tezcuco Street. Later around 1890 he would move into  the two-story brick veneered building seen above, adding an upstairs hotel to his services in the process. Back then the building featured a large oriel window on its second floor – a window that has since been removed.

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While not particularly interesting, the building is unique along a block largely replaced with dull unimaginative structures. Its Victorian charm can still be seen along its cornice and frieze, which features an interesting array of terra cotta tiles of “x’s” and “o’s”. Today the building is home to a popular local eatery – the Kaleva – an operation that has occupied the building for decades.

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We can glimpse the old Gutsch Hotel in this old photo, it’s oriel graced facade standing tall down at the end of the block. Original it was joined by St. Patrick’s Hall, a large wood framed meeting hall and theater which occupied the corner of Ravine and Quincy Streets. That old meeting hall would end up being replaced by a brand new masonry commercial block – one built for and sharing the name of the Funkey Hardware Company.

John Funkey was another German immigrant, first arriving to the new world with his parents and five siblings in 1843. In Germany John’s father was an esteemed professor of music, a vocation he continued in his new adopted home of Detroit where he taught music. John would be educated in Detroit and upon graduation entered the Machinist trade. In 1857 he moved north to take advantage of the great copper rush, securing work first in the Cliff Mine before eventually ending up at the Franklin where he served as Mill Superintendent. After nearly 40 years in the milling trade Mr. Funkey decided to leverage his vast experience and open his own hardware business in Hancock – initially catering predominately to area mine and mill companies.  The year was 1894 and Funkey Hardware was born.

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Funkey hardware would quickly expand to serve both industrial and commercial clients, becoming not just a hardware store but a heating and plumbing specialist as well. Business was good and around 1906 Mr. Funkey was able to erect for himself a proud two-story masonry business block in the heart of Hancock’s downtown. The new building was clad in brick and featured a variety of sandstone highlights across its facade. Inside were two storefronts, a smaller space on the building’s east end housing a saloon and a much larger corner space occupying the western two-thirds of the building – a space which would be reserved for Mr. Funkey’s hardware business. Down within the building’s exposed basement level were four additional retail spaces opening out to neighboring Ravine Street, spaces which included a barber and a plumber.

Funkey Hardware would continue to operate out of the Funkey Block’s western storefront for nearly a decade until changing times forced the business to undergo a major downsizing. In the process the building was sold to new owners who looked to occupy the building’s western two-thirds for its own use – plans that forced the old hardware business to vacate its original retail space and move next door into the smaller eastern storefront. The new owners would then embark on a major refresh of their portion of the Funkey Block, reshaping its exterior to better match its new tenant. Though the western portion of the block would receive a new face, its eastern third – now home to the Funkey Hardware Store – would remain largely unchanged.

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Today it remains just as unchanged, the only addition being a new third floor added later in the building’s life. When the new facade was added to the rest of the building – glimpsed off to the right in the photo above – the designers tried to give the impression that this side of the block was its own separate building. To do that they moved the sandstone quoins that once graced the building’s outer corner here to this section’s western edge. It almost works, at least until you look closely at those second floor windows which sit slightly off center. It was a mistake the powers-that-be attempted to remedy when they later added that third floor – that time insuring the trio of new windows were more centrally aligned.

By looking at what remains of the Funkey Block it easy to see why the new tenant would want to give the old building a facelift, especially when you take into consideration who that new tenant was – the First National Bank of Hancock.

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The First National Bank of Hancock had a long history in the city, first setting up shop at the corner of Hancock and Reservation streets in 1874. In 1888 the bank would move to a new home at the head of Quincy Street –  the grand masonry building seen above (and featured previously here on CCE). In 1903 the growing bank would expand the building further with the addition of a third floor and a forty foot addition to its backside. Yet even that would not be enough for the burgeoning business, as by 1910 it was looking for a new larger home.  No simple commercial block would do for the financial institution, as it was looking for a prominent corner lot on which it could have a “presence” – an architectural gem that would showcase the bank’s wealth, stability, and power. When the Funkey Block came up for sale it was perfect – a large masonry building sitting at a prominent corner of Quincy Street just a block from city hall. Thus in 1912 the bank would buy up the old building, securing its western two-thirds for its own use. Yet while having the location and the space the bank required, the Funkey Block was hardly the architectural gem it was looking for. For that the building would have to be given a bit of a face lift – a renovation that would completely transform the bank’s section of the building to such a degree that today it looks to be a completely separate building.

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The end result was nothing short of stunning, easily one of the grandest and most impressive bank buildings to be found anywhere in the region. Completed in 1914 the new Funkey Block – or at least two-thirds of it – had been transformed into a soaring Greek-inspired Parthenon dressed in the finest marble, limestone and bronze. By simply re-facing the old Funkey Block but keeping the building relatively intact otherwise the bank saved a great deal of money – funds it would turn around and spend on the building’s even more lavish lobby.

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Inside could be found a public lobby flanked on either side by a pair of “screens”, otherwise known as cages today. To the right were the cashier cages while to the left was the president’s office. A series of robust capital-capped columns lined the space’s center.  In the back a bronze gate provided a view of the bank’s two massive vaults – enclosures lined with three layers of steel and encased in concrete. The vault doors were eight inches thick and fitted with triple time locks.

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The bank spared no expense on the plush interiors, fitting the lobby with the most exquisite of materials. Along the floor was laid Tennessee marble, while bronze gates and bars formed the teller cages. Most lavish of all was the material used to create  the bank’s “screens” – an imported French marble featuring an infusion of lilac colored veins splashed across its surface. Meanwhile upstairs the offices featured parquet floors and mohogany wainscoting.

Unfortunately today this lobby is no more, its lavish interior having been removed soon after the bank had closed its doors. Fortunately what does remain is the building’s equally as impressive front facade – an edifice that still makes a strong statement a century since its conception.

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A good part of that statement stems from the towering fluted columns of granite which rise up along the bank’s face. Those Greek inspired columns transform the old Funkey Block into something more akin to a temple – a house of worship to the financial gods. Between those columns is the front face of the bank itself – a vast bank of windows outlined in the aged patina of bronze.   High up top we find a rather plain frieze featuring nothing more then a line of marble speckled with various holes. Originally those holes would have secured large raised letters to the frieze, letters spelling out “First National Bank”.

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Centered within it all is the bank’s main entrance – yet another grand edifice just shrunk down into a more human scale. Here we find even more granite, chiseled and shaped into a overhanging pediment supported by a pair of scrolled brackets. Under the overhang can be seen a granite plaque carved with the bank’s founding date (a sign utilizing the classic-inspired “V” in place of a “U”).

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Next door stands the entrance to the building’s upper floors – this one slightly less adorned than the neighboring bank entrance. Like that entrance, however, these doors are also trimmed with bronze as is the transom window and frieze above.

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Meanwhile high up atop the building’s facade we find those soaring columns capped with ornate Corinthian capitals, most likely made of terra cotta. Above them would have stood the building’s oversized cornice, a cap of even more granite topped with a robust oversized balustrade running along the roofline. Today those elements have been covered by a line of corrugated metal panels, possibly due to the cornice’s absence or perhaps its deteriorated condition.

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Around the corner we peak down the Ravine Street side of the building, a facade which is blessed with an abundance of large window openings. The large openings along the first floor would have provided light into the main bank lobby, while up above the second floor windows lit interior office space. Originally the Funkey Block was only two stories in height, a height the re-faced bank building would also share. Later, however, the growing bank required even more space and so a third floor was added.

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Looking high up to the top of that added third floor we find something a bit different then the usual tin cornice we have come to expect on buildings such as this. Instead a line of terra cotta tiles forms the building’s frieze, with its “cornice” being nothing more then a line of tiles with a slight protrusion along their caps. These tiles would have originally sat down at the top of the second floor, but were moved up to the top when the third floor was added. Some of the original tiles remain down along the top of the second floor however, still marking the Funkey Block’s original roofline.

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Back at the building’s rear we find even more terra cotta tiles, these ones of a far larger stature serving as the building’s quoins. Around them the facade here and in the back alley are covered with a creamy white glazed brick – only helping solidify the building’s unique look.

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When the bank took over the Funkey block is occupied the entirety of the building’s western two-thirds, which included the trio of basement level storefronts which originally graced Ravine Street facade. In the renovation those storefronts were removed and closed off, though a pair of entrances – one here and another further back behind the sidewalk – were kept to serve as employee entrances. Behind these walls was housed yet another large concrete lined vault, a vault which was used to store bank records and other important documents.

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The First National Bank would occupy this impressive structure for several decades to come, continue to serve the city up until at least the early 1950s. The bank would eventually close, however, leaving its grand opulant building empty and abandoned. Soon the grand marbles, limestones, and bronzes of its interior were pillaged and sold off, leaving nothing but an empty shell behind. In the decades to follow the building would become home to a variety of short lived enterprises including a video rental store. Today it is home to a local Edward Jones Investments office, whose business name is now set above the old bank lobby’s main entrance. Its modern role in the financial sector is fitting considering its background. Its just too bad that old marble lobby is not also still intact inside.

Information for this series was partially obtained from the book “Images of America – Hancock” by John S. Haeussler – local Hancock historian extraordinaire,  fellow copper country enthusiast and good friend to CCE. 

Discuss…

  1. Mike – you really nailed the Funkey Block. Well done. I knew that the old First National Bank building and the Keweenaw Community Foundation building had interior connections, but I assumed that somehow happened later on. I didn’t realize that the Funkey Block reached all the way to Ravine Street and that the FNB gave the western portion its extreme facelift less than a decade after the structure was originally built.

    I have an early sketch of the Funkey Block, presumably giving some idea of what the building looked like ca. 1906, but to my knowledge I’ve never seen a photo of the building prior to the FNB facelift. If any CCE reader has a photo of the building prior to the 1912 to 1914 work, please let us know. :-)

    • Thanks John! They “facelift” info was just luck as I stumbled across that Calumet News article that described the renovations. They did a great job as it always seemed to me that the two were separate buildings as well. And I second that call for photos of the “original” Funkey Block – it would be great to see. I did add the sketch you mention, so perhaps that will help people get an idea of the extent of those renovations. Thank you for that!

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