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 Great Copper Tower

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Hancock’s rise to power and prestige was a quick one. Within just a couple of decades the small mining town found itself at the center of a sprawling industrial empire, its population growing by leaps and bounds in the process. For a time the city was at the top of …

Along the Three Hundred

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Hancock’s original plat was a mere five blocks long, bordered on both sides by mine-owned lands belonging to the Quincy on the east and the Hancock Mine to the west. On that western end would be located the village’s public entities – including its schools, town hall, and later the …

The Funkey Block

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The fires that ravaged the 200 block of Hancock’s Quincy Street were almost complete in their destruction. Over a dozen 19th century buildings were wiped away, leaving large empty spaces along both sides of the commercial corridor. While new buildings would eventually move into the now open spaces, those replacement …

The Replacements

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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 …

Forged From Fire

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Fire has always been a constant danger to old mining communities in the Copper Country. To make the matter more problematic was the region’s long, harsh, and often bone chillingly cold winters – winters which often pushed heating systems to their limits. Chimney fires, stove fires, unsupervised space heaters, coal fires…the ways …

Downtown Hancock (p2)

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Quincy Street’s 100 block grew quickly, forming a dense commercial corridor early in Hancock’s history. Most of that was due to location, as the block was bookended by a pair of relatively busy thoroughfares. To the east was the wagon-road connecting Quincy Mine’s mill and surface plant while to the …

Downtown Hancock (p1)

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The Copper Empire hit its peak in the early 1910s, a time when employment and opportunity was at its greatest fervor in the region. This was a time before the great strike of 1913 would put a knife into the empire’s side and far before the Great Depression would stick a …

The Wright Block and Gartner’s Department Store

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The First National Bank building at the corner of Quincy and Reservation was not the first home of the financial institution, as it had already been operating in Hancock since nearly the village’s conception. Back then one of the bank’s tellers was an American by the name of Charles Augustus …

At the Crossroads

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Hancock’s precarious perch along the steep slopes of Quincy Hill greatly constrained the young village’s original platt. As such the only suitable space for building existed along a very narrow plateau sandwiched between a rugged cliff along the lakeshore and a increasingly steep topography to the north. It was a space that …

The Scott Hotel

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In 1906 the Copper Country was all grown up. As the new century dawned what was once nothing more then a frontier mining camp had matured into a modern metropolitan region and home to the state’s third largest population cluster. Along with its rise to prominence came a equally strong regional …

The Quincy Ravine

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The land on which the city of Hancock currently stands was once all owned by a young Quincy Mining Company, who first came to the Portage valley around 1846. The mine’s early attempt to find copper were not entirely successful and its original pursuits along the hillside near the campus of present …

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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As the 1920s approached Hancock was reaching its economic and cultural peak, the mining town rising to a level of power and influence second only to the sprawling metropolis of Red Jacket. By then Hancock was something more then a simple mining town on the frontiers of the Keweenaw wilderness, it had …

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 …