Our historic photographer Tom Roberts was quite the connoisseur of all things Hancock as most of the hundreds of his pictures I now have in my possession feature the old mining town and the mine that gave it birth. Those pictures span decades of time, from the 1960s up to the dawn of the 21st century. While a great deal of Tom’s pictures are of buildings and ruins that we still are familiar with today, a few showcase places that are no longer with us. Some of this missing items are places that I never even knew existed, places that have disappeared from the landscape long before I had arrived to the scene in the 1990s. Two of those missing Hancock places caught my attention during my research into the current Hancock series here on CCE – lost pieces of Hancock that deserve their own day in the sun.
The first of these lost Hancock landmarks comes to us in wake of yet another of Hancock’s devastating fires. It was in 1978 that fire once again had its way with the 200 block of Hancock’s Quincy Street, a fire which would destroy a trio of buildings found at the north-west corner of Tezcuco Street. After the buildings were removed the empty space was covered in concrete and turned into a large parking lot. It was a parking lot that our historic reporter – Tom Roberts – felt the need to document after its completion in 1978.
Most notable about that parking lot – besides the high level of vintage cars on display – was the large white wall boarding its rear quarter. This wall represented all that had survived from that devastating fire – the back foundation and retaining walls which supported the three buildings which once called this space home. Here the wall is still scarred from the fire, black soot continuing to mar its upper surface. Tom would later revisit this wall and discover that something incredible had happened during the subsequent years…
Now the wall was decorated with a sprawling mural, painted by unknown artists at an unknown time. All I know is that the photo was taken in the summer of 1984, which meant it was painted in the early 80s. The mural is split into two sections, a narrow above ground strip along its top and the main underground section taking up the majority of the walls’ face. That underground is no doubt meant to represent a local copper mine, filled with a collection of miners hard at work procuring the red metal.
Here’s another section, showcasing the same split screen vignette as the rest. Here we find miners and trammers at work along with a man staring at a light bulb for some reason. Up above can be found an idyllic farm land of green and blue.
Further along the view opens up and leaves the underground, providing more panoramic views of the surface landscape. Here we find what appears to be a passenger ship docked at the Quincy Smelter for some reason. Behind it Quincy Hill can be seen rising upwards, speckled with a variety of miners’ homes and wagon roads. Up top a line of train cars can be seen skimming along the ridge line.
Today the murals are gone, the retaining walls on which they were painted covered by the erection of the Northern Mutual Insurance Company building which now occupies the former parking area. Only a small portion of the wall remains, sitting just off to the left of the new building. No sign of any mural there either, it must have been sandblasted away during the building’s construction. Also missing here is another old piece of Hancock history that seems to have vanished from view. That being the massive brick and sandstone building what once occupied the corner of Tezcuco and Franklin Streets – just to the right of that blue brick building seen in the photo above.
Tom Roberts would end up catching the old building in question in this 1991 photo of the Northern Mutual Insurance Company building. It can be seen just up the hill to the far right.
Here’s a closer look, provided once again by Tom as he huffed up the hill for a better shot. Its an impressive looking building, its front facade featuring an array of arched openings including a collection of windows and insets. The building sat at the south-west corner of Franklin and Tezcuco Streets, a space which today is nothing but a parking lot. At this time the building housed the offices of Neil’s Taxi, a company who today operates out of a much smaller building found across Franklin Street.
Tom finishes his walk up the hill by turning around at Franklin Street and shooting another shot of the mystery building – this time from its northern facade. Though the building’s second floor remains largely original, its first floor has been greatly altered with the bricking-up of its large round-arched window openings – now home to far smaller windows then originally meant for the openings. As the sign along the sidewalk indicates the building was for sale at the time of this photo, but as Tom notes on its back the building would be demolished the following year. Its a shame too, cause up along its top can be found a clue to the grand building’s original owner – the Bosch Brewing Company.
The Bosch Brewing Company originated out of neighboring Lake Linden, but at the turn of the century would migrate southward to the Portage Valley where it set up shop in the former Scheuermann brewing plant west of Houghton. By that time the brewery had reached epic proportions, easily the largest in the region. In addition to its plants in Houghton and Lake Linden, the company also had store houses and branch offices in Eagle River, Ishpeming, Baraga, and here in Hancock.
Unfortunately the pedigree of this particular building is lost to me. It arrived to the scene sometime between 1907 and 1917, though without the brick veneer seen along its facade as seen in Tom’s shots. At that time the building was home to a saloon run by a Mr. Sakris Eskola. I would guess that the saloon was a Bosch-owned establishment, used to introduce the company’s brews to the Hancock populace. At some point before 1949 the building was given its brick facelift, complete with the Bosch branding at its peak.
The company’s own peak would occur in the 1950s, after which increased completion from national brand beers began to dampen the company’s prospects. The company would subsequently close its doors in 1973. By the time Tom had come across this building it hadn’t served the brewery in over forty years, yet the soot stained plaque still remained along its crown. After these picture were taken the building would be torn down, leaving nothing but another large parking lot in its place. Just another piece of Hancock lost to time.