Friday, July 20, 2012

Copper Country–The Keweenaw

Armed with a little mining history from Bruce and big appetites, we headed up the Keweenaw Peninsula  through the heart of the copper mining country. We scratched the surface of what’s to learn  about mining, but we did put a dent in the Whitefish supply.
From 1840’s to the 1960’s copper mining wrote the history here. After the last mines closed, the economy crashed, but many strong people love this place and are finding a way to live here as the scars heal. One focal point is the Keweenaw National Historical Park which partners with many existing mining sites to tell the story.
After a quick survey of the big BIG Quincy Mine dominating the hill overlooking Houghton, we zeroed in on the most lively enterprise we have seen in the UP –Patterson’s Fish Market!




At Park HQ, we spent most of the afternoon in the beautifully restored Masonic building which focuses on the everyday lives of the community of miners. 


IMG_5652IMG_5651We walked the town of Calumet with its many churches and solid civic buildings of locally quarried brown stone. There are no shortage of these, some abandoned and a few repurposed.  Around them, some homes are being maintained, others are in tatters, vacant lots and buildings evidence of a shrinking population.  The Park Service underlines the positive, stressing in video interviews the deep love of place which the townspeople share and the pride they feel in the park celebrating the town, its past and its future.


We met wonderful folks –- the young daughter of a volunteer fireman gave us a tour of old fire equipment, and agreed that the Fire Museum is actually larger than today’s fire department. A park employee gave us a “bones” tour of the renovation of the Masonic building and we agreed that without this influx of federal funds, the place would have fallen further into ruins like the Italian Hall. There scores of miners and their children perished during the strike of 1913. Now all that remains of the Italian Hall is the front portico and the Woody Guthrie song.

Northward we drove along the coast through Eagle Harbor and other Marina locations – no boats?? At Copper Harbor, there were a few, but reports are that  tourists of all kinds are staying away?? 




Touring reconstructed Fort Wilkins after Reveille we found the presentations of daily life in a frontier fort extremely well done.  We were sorry  it was too late in the day to interact with the costumed interpreters, but the tranquility in the late afternoon was a blessing.  A tip from the Park store manager let us to the treat of the day – the Harbor Haus.  This German-American restaurant was Packed. Excellent food, great service and every table has a view of the lake.  What’s not to like? They ask for your dessert choice First – my kind of place.  We chose the Raspberry Cobbler and (after more Whitefish), it arrived straight from the oven.  Wonderful!!  We savored its memory on the long road home to Lotti.

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