Quincy Smelting Works

“The Quincy Smelting Works is the last of the last, a lone remnant of an industrial juggernaut that once lined the Portage Waterway for miles. Like her shoreline brethren, the Quincy complex existed only to serve its copper masters, and when the copper empire died she died along with it. As time marched forward the sprawling industrial ruins around her were sacrificed to the region’s new master – tourism. The shoreline on which smelters, foundries, warehouses, and coal docks once stood were transformed to parks, boardwalks, and rows of townhouses. But through it all the Smelter has remained. Though battered and bruised and showing her age, the old gal continues to remind us all of the copper country’s rich industrial heritage.”

Dockside at the Quincy Smelter

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After having been dug out of the ground, milled and smelted, copper’s last stop before leaving the region was one of several shipping docks found alongside the waterways of the peninsula. Here copper ingots, cakes and rods were piled high to wait for a ride on an outgoing freighter and …

Keebler’s Bumper

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It lies half buried and forgotten, covered in decades’ worth of shifting stamp sands and scattering debris at the head of the Quincy Smelter’s dock. In its current state it appears to be nothing more then a hefty iron block supported by several equally formidable iron posts, but the clues …

The Reverberatory Trestle

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For over 70 years the sprawling smelter complex along Portage Lake – otherwise known as the Quincy Smelting Works – processed millions of tons of copper for not only the Quincy Mine but numerous other area mines as well. In the process the complex produced over a hundred thousands tons …

Piece of Slag

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Mining is a messy business, an industry that discards an exceptionally large amount of waste product for such a minuscule amount of actual copper. First there’s the copper-barren rock that remains after the copper is removed, usually stacked up in large towering piles up on the surface. Then there’s the …

A Facelift for the Quincy Smelter

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It’s been over two years since I was last at the Quincy Smelter, when I was lucky enough to be given an all-access pass to the site thanks to the generosity of the Quincy Smelter Association and Franklin Township. Since then a lot has changed at the site, as a …

Parting Shots (p2)

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Continuing our final look at some of the various odds and ends scattered about the Quincy Smelting Works we take a walk around the exterior of the facility, and find a few buildings we had missed previously. First on that list is the pump house building, which sits attached to …

Parting Shots (p1)

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Before leaving behind the Quincy Smelter for good I thought I’d share a collection of random shots from throughout the facility – various odds and ends that didn’t fit comfortably in any particular category that I had already featured. We begin with this little beauty, one of several that were …

Tramways (p2)

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The slag skimmed from the furnaces was not simply a waste product that could be disposed of right away. While consisting primarily of waste rock there was still a fair amount of copper to be found as well. To remove those last remaining drops of copper the slag would be …

Tramways (p1)

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The Quincy Smelting Works is a large and expansive complex, one that is not only home to furnace buildings and mineral houses but also a sprawling collection of support facilities including coal sheds, warehouses, and slag dumps. In the beginning materials were transported across these facilities on simple wheeled carts, …

The Support Buildings (p3)

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While most of the Quincy Smelters support buildings run along a line at the facility’s west end, a few others are scattered randomly about the rest of the property. Two of the more prominent of these structures are on the facility’s south end, sandwiched in between the coal and copper …

The Support Buildings (p2)

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Of all the various support buildings that litter the Quincy Smelting Works one particular model stands out over the rest. In a sea of wood framed mediocrity, the machine shop’s cement block facade looks almost baroque in contrast. That cement block style reflects the building’s more recent construction, around 1907. …

The Support Buildings (p1)

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As we exited the boiler complex we were leaving behind the last of the Quincy Smelter’s main production facilities. But there was still – amazingly – a great deal of buildings still surviving at the site for exploration. These buildings were the smelter’s support buildings, smaller one-room structures which served …

The Boiler Complex (p2)

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For the last three years at CCE I’ve had the misfortune of coming across more than a few boiler ruins, with very little to show for it. As I’ve stated many times before boiler houses just don’t survive too well, due most likely to the unabashed eagerness of scrapers who …

The Boiler Complex (p1)

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Every mine and mill in the copper country required power. In the early days that power was mechanically based, utilizing line shafts and pulleys to transfer an engine’s rotational energy to various machines and equipment. Later that power was derived from electricity, and those same machines and equipment were simply …

Smelter Tech: The Corliss Engine

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While James Watt’s improvements to the steam engine may have been responsible for giving birth to the industrial revolution it would be the contribution of George Corliss that made it profitable. Watt’s contribution to engine design was one of practicality and reliability. Corliss’s contribution was one of efficiency, creating engines …

The Engine Room

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In addition to the smelting and refining operations undertaken at the Quincy facility there were additional requirements its infrastructure had to provide such as mechanical power, heat, light, and water. These duties were delegated to the smelter’s engine room – a sandstone building attached to the backside of the Cupola …

The Cupola Building (p2)

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A Cupola furnace – otherwise known as a blast furnace – takes a rather divergent approach to copper smelting as compared to the reverberatory process. Most notable is the fact that a cupola has no separate fire box, both the copper and fuel are combined together within a vertically oriented …

The Cupola Building (p1)

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The slag that is removed from the reverberatory furnaces contains as much as 18 percent copper – too rich to simply dump as waste and not nearly rich enough to re-work in the furnaces with any success. In order to capture these last remaining drops of copper the slag is …

The Warehouse

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Once the molten copper has been poured into ingots and allowed to cool, the finished product is then sent via tramcar to its final stop at the Quincy Smelting Complex – the dockside warehouse. This large wooden structure was one of the complex’s original structures, originally built in 1898. It …

Smelter Tech: Walker Casting Machine

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An automated casting machine at work In the beginning, the finished copper from the Quincy furnaces were molded into ingots using a very labor intensive process. In essence workers would scoop out the copper with long handled ladles and then proceed to pour the copper into lines of waiting molds. …

The Casting Plant (p2)

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The 1920’s era casting plant at the Quincy Smelting works was built primarily for one reason: to house the automating casting machine built to supplement the newly minted No.3/No.5 combo furnace installed in the old reverberatory furnace buildings. The machine greatly increased the speed of the casting process as well …

The Casting Plant (p1)

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When the new No.3/No.5 combo furnace was installed at the Quincy Smelting Works, a large component of the new system was an automatic casting mechanism. This machine was housed in a large steel-framed extension added to the east end of the No.5 furnace building, a structure known as the Casting …

The Combo Furnace (p2)

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Unlike its predecessor to the west, the No.5 furnace building is a very plain and uninspired structure. Unlike the sandstone prestige of its predecessor, the No.5 building’s iron trusses and corrugated metal siding give the structure a “cheaper” look. The building’s interior is just as pedestrian, an observation we made …

The Combo Furnace (p1)

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When the Quincy Smelter was first built, its compliment of four reverberatory furnaces was more than adequate in meeting the company’s needs. Over the ensuing years, however, the smelter’s capacities would become strained as the complex began handling an increased workload from not only the Quincy Mine itself, but also …

Smelter Tech: The Reverberatory Furnace

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The copper that arrived to the smelter was anywhere from 70 to 90 percent pure. Due to the unique nature of Lake Superior copper, most of those impurities manifested themselves as pieces of foreign rock imbedded within the copper itself. As a result Copper Country smelters – including the Quincy …