Quincy Smelter Tour

The Quincy Smelter site in Ripley, part of the Keweenaw National Historical Park but owned by Franklin Township, was open for tours last weekend. Although I’ve been busy hitting the books and writing the first chapter of my thesis (thus not updating this site very often), I was able to swing down and catch an afternoon tour last Saturday.  Below you will find a few samples of photos from that day.  For more information about touring the Quincy Smelter site please visit the Quincy Smelter Association’s blog. Tours are typically offered sporadically throughout the summer and fall.  The last time to see the tour this year is on October 12 from 12-4. Tours begin every hour on the hour. I hope to resume my “Today in the Strike” posts by next week.

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Currently Reading: Death’s Door

Interior of Italian Hall - Photo Courtesy of MTU Archives/Keweenaw Digital Archive

Over the holidays of 1913 the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the whole state, and the country as a whole heard news of a tragedy that took place in the city of Calumet. On Christmas Eve on the second floor of Italian Hall, a gathering place for locals, mostly striking miners and their families enjoyed a crowded and festive holiday party. At one point, someone cried “Fire” and panic swept over the crowd and people fled down the stairs and for the door. The doors were stuck. Panic swelled. Yet, there was no fire.

In the aftermath of the chaos it was found that six dozen people, many of them children, had been crushed to death in the stampede for the door. The lingering questions of how such a thing could happen and why the doors wouldn’t budge open when people tried to evacuate have intrigued local people and historians for almost a century.

I am currently reading a book that tackles the Italian Hall disaster, Death’s Door: The Truth Behind Michigan’s Largest Mass Murder by Steve Lehto. I hope to have a review in the coming week. In the meantime, please have a listen to Woody Guthrie’s song, 1913 Massacre, which was named after this tragic event.

Help Save a Historic Landmark!

Exterior view of the Calumet Theatre, Calumet, MI. (Photo Courtesy of the Keweenaw Digital Archive, Michigan Tech)

As the copper mining industry was booming in the late 1800s, Calumet, Michigan residents and officials began to notice the rising need for entertainment venue options for residents.  According to the Calumet Theatre website, in 1898 the village had a population of approximately 4000 residents with an additional 30,000 within walking distance of the village limits.  To fill a need in the community, the theatre project was proposed and it opened its doors on March 20, 1900.  The theatre has a long and colorful history of classic American stage productions, films, international troupes, and musical acts.  The Calumet Theatre Company, incorporated in 1983, was established to facilitate incoming programs as well as to promote the historic restoration and preservation of the building.  The combination of the theatre’s status as a National Historic Landmark as well as the 60-80 quality performances each year make this space a treasured addition to the community and a lasting legacy of the region’s past.

Despite the history of this grand theatre, in recent years the building has fallen victim to specific architectural ailments.  The roof has deteriorated to a state of disrepair, with leaks damaging interior ceilings, walls, and insulation on the proscenium arch.  Volunteers have made efforts to direct leaks away from the arch to prevent further damage.  With the amount of annual snowfall frequently reaching hundreds of inches per winter as well as the amount of warmer weather rain, it is clear to see how melting snow or rainy days pose an inevitable threat to the structural integrity of this building.  In an effort to gain support for the theatre someone has submitted a proposal to the Pepsi Refresh Project to help save this historic theatre.  By voting every day until the end of December you can help The Calumet Theatre possibly receive a much-needed grant to secure funds to properly repair the roof and restore this theatre to a glorious and sound state.  Please vote today and help a small community in the Copper Country save a treasured landmark.

The Historic Michigan House

Exterior photo of the Michigan House taken by Peterson of the Daily Mining Gazette, July 2, 1972. (Photo Courtesy of the Keweenaw Digital Archives, Michigan Tech)

My husband and I are going home over winter break, leaving the DC area in a few short weeks.  Packing a car-ride loving dog and a car-ride hating cat into our little Versa, we will drive two days across Northern Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Downstate Michigan, and across the Mackinac Bridge.  Upon passing the northern end of the bridge and paying our toll we will be in the homeland, with only five hours across Yooperland to get to home (with frequent stops at favorite haunts along the way).  We usually arrive at his parents’ lake house in Twin Lakes or my parents’ house in Tamarack City (a former superintendents’ house from the Calumet & Hecla Mine) in the mid to late evening on the second day of travel.  On our first full day back home, without fail, we venture up to Calumet, MI to take in lunch and locally brewed beer at the Michigan House Café and the Red Jacket Brewing Co. to be followed by junk shop, book shop, and art gallery browsing.  Basically, this first day home is as close to heaven on Earth as you can get.

The Michigan House Café is located in the downtown historic district of Calumet.  The brewpub and the hotel attached on the upper level have been located on the corner of 6th and Oak Street since the late 1890’s.  The Michigan hotel and the attached saloon have long been a local favorite as well as a tourist destination.  The original saloon, Fox and Everts, was taken over by Bosch Brewing in 1905;  Bosch Brewing Co. was a small brewing company (1874-1973) and I will share more about them later.  After raising the original building and putting up a new structure, the building reopened to the public as a lodging, eating, and drinking establishment.  A short distance from the legendary Calumet Theatre, local historians believe this local institution was a favorite of theater goers.  The current owners keep the tradition of the Michigan House alive by offering great food and amazing microbrewed beer all in a dark wood and tile floored bar, filled with vintage pieces, antiques, art, and a noticeable appreciation for local history.  The old wooden Bosch bar, the Bavarian oil painting depicting a drinking and jolly picnic scene, as well as mounted trophies, vintage beer bottles, tin signs, and other collectibles set the stage for a glorious dining experience in a historic setting.  In short, you can see why it is one of my favorite places on the planet.  Please check out my photostream on flickr to see some photos I’ve taken of the interior and exterior of the building.