Hancock

Only five years since the Keweenaw Copper rush first began, a group of speculators invested in mineral rights atop the steep hillside along Portage Lake and formed the Quincy Mining Company. For the next decade work continued sporadically at the mine without success. It wasn’t until 1856 – with the discovery of the copper rich Pewabic Lode – that the mine’s success was finally assured. With success came a massive influx in people to the area, prompting the mine in 1859 to sell off plats of land along the base of the hill to arriving merchants and businessmen. This new community became known as the city of Hancock.

In the beginning Hancock was nothing more than an oversized mining town, owned and controlled by the Quincy Mine. Quickly, however, the town outgrew its copper masters and by 1863 had established an independent municipal government. For the next several decades Quincy continued to platt and sell off more land as demand warranted, increasing the size of the city substantially. By the turn of the century it had become the second largest city in the region – just behind Houghton.

A large amount of Hancock’s growth was due to Finnish immigrants, who moved to the area to work at the Quincy Mine. The regions similarity in topography and weather to their homeland prompted many of these immigrants to remain in the area, buying up recently cleared land atop Quincy Hill for farming. In 1896 the Finnish Lutheran Church established Suomi Academy in the city to fulfill the spiritual and educational needs of those Finnish residents. It became a fully accredited college in 1924, and exists still today as Finlandia University.

The Lost Temple of Tezcuco

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The Acolhua people were one of the three “city-states” to once control the Valley of Mexico – the highland plateau in central Mexico where current day Mexico City is located. The Acolhuan people were advanced both cultural and technologically, living in piece with their neighbors to form what we know …

Jacob’s Temple

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Jacob Gartner was one of Hancock’s most prolific businessman, first arriving to the bustling mining town in the early 1880s. He and his 14 year old son got straight to work selling door-to-door as a street peddler. It was a vocation that Mr. Gartner proved highly skilled at, aided greatly by his ability to …

The East Hancock Stairway

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For most visitors to Hancock the first thing that welcomes them after crossing the bridge is a steep hillside lined by a long concrete retaining wall adorned with “Welcome to the City of Hancock” in big white letters. This wasn’t always the case, however, as most visitors to the city for most of …

The Wright School

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The hillside on which the village of Hancock was platted was injurious  to its growth and expansion in the years that followed. Areas of developable  land was limited by the increasingly steep hill to the north and the deep waters of the Portage to the south, forcing the village to …

The Ryan School

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Thanks to the booming copper industry and the complimenting success of the Quincy Mine up atop the hill, the village of Hancock grew in leaps and bounds as it approached the dawn of a new century. The community’s precarious position alongside the steep hillside of Quincy Hill meant that any …

The Wright Facade

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The great Copper Empire reached its peak at the height of the Victorian Age, and thus the great buildings and homes that were erected in the Empire’s honor were drenched in more then the usual amount of Victorian exuberance. One of the best examples of this can be found in …

Cultural Amenities (p3)

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So far we’ve travelled a dozen years through the lifetime of Hancock, discovering its cultural institutions as they have cropped up and noted when they have faded away. Today we conclude our series by fast forwarding another dozen or so years, landing at the peak of the city’s growth – …

Cultural Amenities (p2)

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By 1888 Hancock Village had evolved into a regional powerhouse, a center of commerce and industry that was quickly outpacing its neighbor across the canal. It had also already scored a nice collection of churches, easily outnumbering the piddly number found in Houghton. The bourgeoning city wasn’t done yet, and …

Cultural Amenities (p1)

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Last week we took a look at what I considered to be Hancock’s impromptu city center, an area of real estate in and around the public school grounds that the majority of Hancock’s cultural amenities congregated to after the turn of the century. That assertion prompted some debate on the …

Hancock in HD

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Today the Copper Country is just another pretty corner of the country, but a century ago when the mines were operating in full swing the region was of national interest. At the tail end of the Victorian age the wonders and majesty of the industrial age was a sight to …

City Center (p2)

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The view of Hancock’s city center above was taken in the winter of 1910, at the city’s economic and cultural height. This was something more then a simple mining town on the frontiers of the Keweenaw wilderness, this was a modern metropolis complete with streetcars, concrete sidewalks, majestic churches, and …

City Center (p1)

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The community of Hancock was given life by the Quincy Mine, whose agent Samuel Hill first platted the village in 1859. That original platt consisted of just 14 blocks, situated between the current streets of Reservation on the east and Montezuma to the west. In those early days the village …

On the Waterfront (p6)

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The Quincy sands may have been a hazard to navigation, but they were particular convenient when it came time to construct a bridge across the Portage. Extending several hundred feet into the waterway, the presence of those sands meant a shorter distance of water to cross as well as a …

On the Waterfront (p5) – The Quincy Sands

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With the Quincy Mill gone, the ragged landscape on which it once stood and the vast tailings that it had formed became a sprawling vacant lot. For a time Quincy continued to utilize its old stomping ground, as its docks were still located along the sands. But over time the …

On the Waterfront (p3) – Warehouse Row

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Hancock was platted atop a narrow ledge of land sitting high up a ridge overlooking  the Portage, a proverbial  city on a hill. This elevated position meant that access to the waterfront was limited to just a few streets cutting down the ridge: Reservation, Ravine, and Tezcuco. With the railroad …

On the Waterfront (p2)

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Having been born from the bosom of the Quincy Mining Company, the village of Hancock was faced with some particular problems most of its neighbors – especially its neighbor across the canal – did not share. The most notable of these was perhaps land as the village was not only …

On the Waterfront (p1)

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The exodus of mills from the Portage Valley left large swaths of lakeshore empty and undeveloped, and it wasn’t long before new industry swept in to take its place.  Yet along the Hancock side at least, the old mining landscape had been augmented by a wide variety of other industries …

Making a Statement

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Hancock’s original compliment of public schools were anchored by a large campus sitting in the heart of the city along Quincy Street. The first to be built was the classically inspired brick building seen above, erected to house the city’s secondary school in 1869. The building would soon be joined …

The Detroit and Lake Superior

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In the districts early years, most copper recovered from the peninsula’s depths were shipped almost straight out of the mine to points east for smelting and refining. Later as the mass mines emptied and companies turned to more finely distributed copper stamp mills began to take shape along lakes and …

The Quincy Pump House

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This rather handsome small sandstone building along Hancock’s waterfront appears at first glance to be an old garage, one recently converted into a motor sports business. That assessment would be partially correct, considering the building’s previous tenant was indeed an auto garage. The building served as a gas station for …

The Hosking House

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Sandstone was a particularly expensive and unwieldy construction material, usually reserved for structures built with some rather substantial financial backing. Thus most sandstone buildings erected across the Keweenaw at the end of the nineteenth century were often built by one of three well-to-do institutions: government, business, or the upper crust. …

Vitriol over Vitrolite

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Architecture is an art form like any other, and just like all art is subject to the often irrational whims of our constantly evolving sense of taste. This very nature of architecture makes the process of historical preservation rather subjective and hardly clear cut. This is especially true when it …

The Sandstone House

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We’ve discussed this old stone building before on CCE but have yet to feature it. So today we take a quick look at what has to be Hancock’s oddest structure. I don’t know its name, nor its history. All I know is that it’s a rather unique and interesting building. …