Houghton

In its infancy, the copper empire was concentrated along the northern end of the Keweenaw peninsula. At that time the mines were being fed by the scattering of small ports along the peninsula’s western shore, namely Copper Harbor, Eagle Harbor, and Eagle River. But by the middle of the nineteenth century, prospectors began to move south and found themselves discovering rich copper lodes along the west arm of Portage Lake. As these Portage Lake mines began to sprout, a conveniently located port became necessary to bring in supplies and ship out the copper. That port would become the city of Houghton.

Unlike most other towns in the Keweenaw, Houghton grew independently from any mine companies direct influence. One of the first Europeans to settle the area was a businessmen by the name of Ransom Shelden, who moved his general merchandise business to the shores of the Portage Lake in 1852. Five years later Shelden helped incorporate the city of Houghton, who’s population had begun to take off thanks to the opening of the Isle Royale Mine. With the completion of improvements to the Portage River in 1860, large ships could finally make their way up the river to the wharfs along Houghton’s waterfront. Soon after that, Houghton would become the new county seat for the newly formed Houghton County. With these developments the city’s role as the regions center of commerce had been assured.

By the turn of the century Houghton would become the largest city in the region, a distinction it continues to hold today. The city’s main thoroughfare – Shelden Ave – would become a showcase for some of the area’s most opulent and grandest architecture including the twin-towered Douglass House, the sandstone faced Shelden-Dee block, and the impressive Masonic Temple. Some of the finest institutions of learning would be erected in the city such as the Carnegie funded library, and the Michigan College of Mines – known today as Michigan Tech. The centerpiece of it all would be the copper capped county courthouse, looking out over the valley atop its perch above the city.

Houghton

From Humble Beginnings (p1)

the upper floors of the Shelden-Dee block, built in 1900 Most towns and villages across the Copper Country owe their…
Houghton

From Humble Beginnings (p2)

dowtown Houghton, along Sheldon Ave. Those who live by the sword die by the sword, and the copper empire that…
Houghton

The 100 Block

As originally platted, the village of Houghton consisted of a narrow tract of land along Portage Lake 8 blocks long…
Houghton

The 200 Block

The second block of Houghton’s main thoroughfare is bordered by Quincy Street to the west and Pewabic on the East.…
Houghton

The 300 Block (p1)

The transformation of Houghton’s Shelden Avenue from residential district to commercial thoroughfare was rather slow and tedious. The streets origins…
Houghton

The 300 Block (p2) – The Hall Building

For the longest time the 300 block of Houghton’s downtown was an architectural wasteland. Though large in statue the Germania…
Houghton

The 400 Block (p1)

Unlike the blocks to the west which remained heavily residential for most of Houghton’s early history, the 400 block established…
Houghton

The 400 Block (p2)

Originally the 400 block of Shelden was home to two important landmarks – the Haas Brewery and Miller’s Hotel. Today…
Houghton

The 400 Block (p3)

Before leaving the 400 block for good there’s one last building that warrants mention, the Leopold Building. This two story…
Houghton

The 500 Block (p1)

One could possibly argue that Houghton’s commercial core along Shelden street owes its existence primarily to the establishment of the…
Houghton

The 500 Block (p2)

Along the north side of Shelden’s 500 block stand just four buildings, all but one of which can be seen…
Houghton

The Shelden-Dee Block

Thanks to the adjacent Douglass House, the corner of Shelden and Isle Royale became Houghton’s de-facto commercial center. Here the…
Houghton

The Douglass House

Houghton’s commercial district began with the establishment of two hotels – the Houghton and the Douglass – both named Douglass…
Houghton

The 600 Block (p1)

While the neighboring 500 block’s claim to fame was its upscale Douglass House hotel, the 600 block’s iconic status would…
Houghton

Downtown Houghton of Old

A short break from our downtown Houghton tour to take a look back at what it once looked like, thanks…
Houghton

The 600 Block (p2)

Making our way back from the massive bank building anchoring the 600 block we come across the second brick business…
Houghton

The Masonic Temple

As we make our way up Houghton’s main commercial street we find one last architectural gem of significance to explore…
Houghton

The Shop

When I first stepped off the ship to arrive in the new world that would become my home, the city…
Houghton

Murals

Sitting along the old DSS&A rail grade – now Houghton’s waterfront trail – is a large mural placed along the…
Houghton

Gotham (p1)

In the beginning Houghton’s waterfront was dominated by warehouses and rail yards, prompting the establishment of the city’s main business…
Houghton

Gotham (p2)

The landscape that exists under the rusting steel of Houghton’s parking deck seems to be from another time and place…
Houghton

The Power House

The Copper Country’s reputation as a modern metropolis in contrast to a typical mining camp was strengthened by it’s early…
Houghton

Terraced Gardens

If you take a stroll along East Lakeshore Drive in Houghton in the area once occupied by the Carroll Foundry,…
Houghton

St. Ignatius School

By the end of the nineteenth century almost every Catholic church in the region had a complimenting parochial school. These…
Houghton

Huron Creek Walls

The city of Houghton sits along a rocky ridge defined by the Pilgrim River valley to the east and the…