The purge of the 200 block did not come all at once but instead it occurred systematically over nearly half a century of attrition. Fire after fire and demolition after demolition left this second block of Hancock’s commercial corridor largely devoid of its 19th century buildings. Fortunately the great Copper Empire would continue to steam ahead insuring demand for new business blocks to house new businesses within the city. Yet times were not nearly as good as they once were, and these new business blocks would be far less impressive than the grand masonry structures they were replacing. The Victorian excess and exuberance that had once characterized the 200 block’s streetscape would be no more, instead a far more mundane and functional character would envelop the “new” 200 block.
This was the future of Hancock’s downtown – a rather bland wall of storefronts whose only character would seem to be their lack of character. Looking like some modern strip mall, these storefronts in actuality are a combination of two separate buildings. A century ago this space would have housed the three story masonry Kauth Block along with the two story Hollman (Wickley) Building. Both were destroyed by fire, replaced with these one-story brick structures in the years that followed.
Shifting our gaze eastward we find even more of these uninspired business blocks – though at least here we find a two story structure giving some height to the streetscape. This area of the street would have originally featured the massive three story facade of the Scott Block, a building erected by the same man who later would add the Hotel Scott to Hancock’s repertoire. After the Scott Block was destroyed by fire, its footprint would become home to these trio of small brick structures.
Next up we find yet another plain building, one designed with functionality over form. Today the building houses the local St. Vincent De Paul store, but originally it was home to a little chain Five and Dime Store known as Woolworths. Though it appears to be two stories that upper floor is in actuality just a fake-out as just behind it the building returns to its true one-story nature. This false front design seems odd, and I would suspect that it is due to the structure having been built from the remains of the old Drittler Block. The Drittler Block was a two story brick-veneered structure which once stood on this very spot, until being destroyed by the same fire which engulfed the neighboring Scott Block. Though I don’t know for sure I think it’s possible that at least part of the front facade of the Drittler Block survived the fire intact. Later when its replacement structure was erected those remains were integrated in the new building, keeping the two story front facade but erecting a new one-story structure behind it. Or that faux second story was just an architectural design decision.
The great fire that destroyed both the Scott Blocks and neighboring Drittler Blocks also heavily damaged a third major structure to be found along the 200 block of Quincy. This one was not a grand masonry structure, but was instead a far less refined haphazard wood-framed building. Seen above in its ruined state just after the fire, the old building was famous for being home to the Baer Brothers Meat Market. The market was run by a trio of German brothers who first opened their meat business up the hill adjacent to the Quincy Mine itself around 1854. As Hancock’s growth accelerated the brothers moved down the hill to open a new store in this rambling wood framed structure at the corner of Tezcuco and Quincy Streets. At their peak the brothers would sell over three train car loads of cattle each week to the residents of Hancock – becoming one of the city’s most prominent and famous institutions. Unfortunately the building would be too damaged by the fire to be saved, resulting in its demolition. The Baer Brothers would not rebuild their store, instead opting to sell the highly desirable corner lot to a new owner. That owner would be yet another famous Hancock institution – the Detroit and Northern Savings and Loan Association, otherwise known as D&N Bank.
The D&N Bank would erect this art-deco bank building atop the old Baer Brothers location in 1939. This was the bank’s third home after having previously held space within the Old First National Bank Building and the Scott Hotel a block to the east. Originally formed in 1889, the bank was originally known as the “Northern Michigan Building and Loan Association”, later adding “Detroit” to its name when it opened a branch office in that city around 1914. Having survived the Great Depression intact, the bank looked to erect itself a new headquarters within the city it called home – placing that new headquarters here at the corner of Tezcuco and Quincy Streets.
As was customary for the period, D&N chose a very contemporary Art Deco design for their new bank building. This design emphasized geometric elements and vertical emphasis – both of which can clearly be seen along the building’s front facade. It was an incredibly unique design for the city, tossing out the Victorian sensibilities that had until now dominated the city’s 19th century streetscape. In place of brick and sandstone the building was clad in limestone and marble – materials not even available locally.
The building’s simplicity is leveraged as art, clean lines and plain surfaces exemplifying the building’s Art Deco sensibilities. The only real piece of flare is the pair of stylized flower motifs set in the facade above the main entrance.
In the years to follow D&N would grow by leaps and bounds, opening branches all across the state. While its name may say Detroit, the bank’s roots were always anchored in Hancock and as such the expanding institution’s centralized offices would be located here. By the 1950s the bank’s old home had been outgrown, requiring a large addition to be added to its backside in 1959. Though matching the original bank’s art-deco design, the new addition can clearly by seen here by its slightly off-colored facade. In the end this addition would still not be enough as the growing bank would need even more space as the decades passed – a need for space that could only be fulfilled by the eventual erection of a soaring high-rise building down the street.
The D&N Bank wouldn’t be the only business to find the space it needed in the newly cleared land of the 200 block. It also wasn’t the only bank to do so, as decades later a second financial institution would arrive to the scene upon land previously occupied by now absent 19th century buildings.
That institution was yet another bank, this time the Superior National Savings Bank. Unlike D&N, the Superior Savings Bank already had a building of its own in the form of the massive three story Wright Block located at the corner of Reservation Street. After half a century in its old home, however, the Victorian age building was beginning to show its age. Worse yet the building was designed in an age of predominantly walk-up business, a far cry from the increasingly mobile customer base the bank was finding itself serving. Those customers demanded convenient parking and the new-fangled “drive up” service that was taking the banking industry by storm – a pair of services the bank’s old home in the Wright Block could not provide. Thus in 1960 the bank would move into a brand new building built atop the ruins of the old St. Patrick’s Church complex – the mid-century modern structure seen in the 1980s Tom Roberts photograph above. In addition to its streamlined modern look, the building featured several “new” features most notable of which being the including of a drive-up window – the first in the area.
Today the bank continues to call this mid-century building home, though its moderne look has been upgraded to something that better fits the times and the surrounding architecture. While new the building continues to honor the bank’s roots, as inside can still be found the bank’s original vault door which previously called the Wright Block home. Today the bank continues to operate, nearly 130 years since its conception.
Heading eastward from the Superior National Bank Building we come across this stately brick building. This is Hancock’s post office, a building that didn’t appear on the scene until 1935. Before that the city’s post office rented out space in various buildings scattered across town including the old Kauth Block located just across the street. This was pretty standard practice until the depths of the Great Depression pushed the federal government into creating work projects that could benefit unemployed people looking for work. An easy way to do that was to build post offices and so thousands of new post office buildings would be erected in small towns and large cities all across the country. A major benefactor of the program was the Copper Country, as new post offices were built in Calumet, Houghton, and here in Hancock.
The Post Office was built through the mild winter of 1934-35, completed in April after five months of work. The bank was erected atop land previously home to the Coughlin Livery. As a depression-era project the building was not exceptionally excessive in any definition of the word. The only piece of architectural flare was the wood surround framing the main entrance, an opening graced with some pilasters and a modest entablature.
Neighboring the post office stands this large empty lot – a space that was emptied not by fire but by a major demolition. It was here that the Northwestern Hotel was erected in 1886, a massive four story brick building that replaced an earlier – and far smaller – wood framed version. Before the eventual arrival of the Hotel Scott twenty years later, the Northwestern was Hancock’s premiere high-class hotel featuring 50 rooms with all the modern conveniences including electric lighting and hot water in the shared bathrooms. It would later be known as the Finlandia Building and housed a restaurant along its first floor before increased age and general neglect forced the building’s abandonment and demolition.
To the right we can make out another brick structure, though this one is of a slightly newer vintage.
Easily one of the youngest buildings to call Hancock home, this odd elevated structure wasn’t built until 1990. It sits atop land originally occupied by the Rexall Drug Store building, a structure which burnt to the ground in 1978. It was land that for the longest time was nothing but a parking lot, a lot that the building would preserve by building over its top. Above we find the young structure as it appeared just after its construction, thanks yet again to the historical insight of Tom Roberts who snapped this picture in 1991.
The building is the home to the Northern Mutual Insurance Company, a company who got its start a century before and a dozen miles to the north in Calumet. The year was 1889 and an area farmer by the name of Erick Kakela gathered a group of prominent citizens to form the “Suomalaisten Keskinainen Palovakuutus – Yhtio” – which translates to the Finnish Mutual Fire Insurance Company. It was a company started and operated by Finnish immigrants to assist other Finnish immigrants in the region. The company’s first headquarters was along Pine Street, moving from rented space to rented space until eventually ending up in a building of their own here at the corner of Quincy and Tezcuco Streets. At that point the name of the company was changed to something less ethnic-centric – becoming the Northern Mutual Insurance Company. The company continues to operated out of this building still today .
While a great deal of the 200 block’s streetscape is today dominated by newer buildings, there does remain at least two old buildings which still provide the block with a bit of secured history. Both were once home to some of Hancock’s more prominent citizens along with one of the city’s grandest buildings…
To Be Continued….
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.