Copper CountryEagle River

Ashes of the Phoenix

Remains of Eagle River’s Phoenix Hotel

At the north end of Eagle River’s Main Street sits a large grove of trees protected by an old wooden fence. Considering the density of the rest of the old village’s Main Street such a large undeveloped parcel along its length seems quite odd and out of place. This seems especially true considering the Lake Superior shore lying just steps away. Yet a closer look reveals the lot not to be so undeveloped as it first seems. Standing tall within the trees rises a tower of dark-red sandstone, while further in a squat little brick alcove looks to be an old abandoned fireplace. Though not much, these two ruins betray the past presence of something rather substantial occupying the space. That something turns out to be one of Eagle River’s most impressive occupants – the massive three-story Phoenix Hotel.

The Phoenix Hotel got its start in Eagle River’s earliest years, named in honor of the mine that helped give birth to the small port town. In need of money, the struggling money sold off a large chunk of its land holdings at the mouth of the Eagle River and platted a village sharing the river’s name. Soon the new village sprouted a Main Street, lined with a generous selection of hotels and saloons. The largest of these hotels was the Phoenix, occupying nearly a block of space by itself.

For a time the Phoenix enjoyed a reputation as one of the grandest hotels in the Keweenaw, a title threatened only by the opulent contenders of the peninsula’s more metropolitan centers. Three stories in height, the hotel featured 24 rooms along with a communal parlor and dining room. As the mines out along the Cliff range prospered, the Phoenix found itself the hotel of choice of visiting investors and mine officials.

Unfortunately, this grand hotel suffered the same fate as the rest of Eagle River. As the mines dried up and the workers left, the hotel found itself without business and was abandoned almost as quickly as it was built. Empty and derelict the massive property succumbed to a fire in the early teens. The fire destroyed everything save for its compliment of masonry fire places and chimneys – remnants that continue to linger atop the empty lot yet today.

The Phoenix Hotel remains lie on the corner of Front and Main Streets in Eagle River.




  1. Is it just me or does the pic of Eagle River pre-date both the bridge and the current lighthouse?

  2. Hrmmm that structure on the waterfront isn’t a lighthouse, upon further reflection. Its the lifesaving station.

    The picture may very well be taken from the lantern room of the lighthouse.

  3. The structure on the waterfront, according to what I have been told, was a warehouse for the pier that extended out into the lake from that point. The Sawtooth Reef sits just off shore there and required a massive pier, in terms of length, to allow ships to dock.

    The “old bridge” that the Township is currently trying to save would be just out of the picture to the right. It sits approximately “mid block”.

  4. I think your right John, and that picture might of just been taken from the lantern room of the lighthouse.

    As far as its date, the archives place it as 1889-1890. By the condition of the dock just barely seen in the front of the warehouse it would look like it had already been abandoned. (considering it was built for the Cliff mine that would make sense)

    The steel bridge would of been just to the right in the photo, except that it hadn’t been built yet – not until 1909.

  5. There are three bridges involved, though:

    1. There’s the old-old bridge, which is the closest to the lake and I think is the one that Steve was referring to. It was totally closed for many years, and reopened recently as a pedestrian bridge only. It’s steel, I think.

    2. The new bridge, upstream from there, which the highway uses to cross the river. It’s wood.

    3. The old bridge, upstream and closest to the falls, which is the old steel highway bridge. It’s been open to pedestrians for a long time.

    Was the old-old bridge the one built in 1909, or just the old one?

  6. O.k. guys… You’re close, but just a bit off… The lighthouse is not in this picture; it would be west of this hotel across the river (just out of frame on the left hand side). The photo was not taken from the lantern (the lighthouse still exists today, but is a private residence). The large building on the water is indeed the Cliff Mine warehouse for storing goods and copper to be ship from the incredibly long dock that used to jut into the lake, not as much to reach Sawtooth Reef, but because the water is shallow for quite a distance out. The lifesaving station was located in Eagle Harbor, where the marina is today.

  7. I think it’s POSSIBLE that the picture was taken from the lighthouse grounds. And there does appear to be some amount of distance above the ground. The lighthouse was not particularly “tall” as lighthouses go, due to it’s location atop of the sand dune. Plus the structure sits almost directly across from the “old-old” bridge.

    I found an old KeweenawNOW article that discusses the bridge:

    According to the article, the old-old (I like that!!) bridge was built around 1909 and would have been built after the picture of the warehouse and hotel was taken anyway.

  8. Here is a nice little article on the Eagle River lighthouse. The guy has 3 nice postcard views from the late 1890’s. First one is from Lake Superior looking up the river with the hotel and lighthouse and other buildings in the view. The second shows the lighthouse and the 3rd, looks to be the almost the same view of the photo from the lighthouse looking down on the hotel. Funny, the old old bridge really is not that old old, the first postcard has an old, old, old bridge in it.

  9. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Eagle River. Does the White House next to hotel still stand? I seem to recall an old store that is still open off to the right. Can anyone link to more recent images from the same angle?

Leave a Reply

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