Historical Ishpeming Tour to feature iconic buildings

The Upper Peninsula Engineers and Architects building at 424 S. Pine Street in Ishpeming was built by the Oliver Mining Company in 1903. It is one of the structures featured in the Ishpeming Historical Society Places and Spaces Historical Home Tour fundraiser. The self guided tour will take place from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit the Ishpeming Historical Society on Facebook or call 906-486-8680. (Photo courtesy of David Aeh)

ISHPEMING — Winston Churchill once said: “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”

The comment, made as the British Parliament was deciding how to rebuild the House of Commons after it had been destroyed by over a dozen air raids during World War II, highlights Churchill’s belief that the original purpose for the building should be preserved.

Members of the Ishpeming Historical Society are offering a self-guided tour of historical homes and businesses on Sunday that honors that same idea.

Tickets are currently available for the Places and Spaces Historic Home Tour fundraiser, which will feature two recently renovated homes, a church and an iconic building tucked away behind the Pioneer Bluff Apartments at 424 S. Pine Street.

The building, which is now home to U.P. Engineers and Architects, was built as the Michigan headquarters of the Oliver Iron Mining Company at the turn of the 20th Century.

The company, a division of U.S. Steel, owned and operated 18 mines on the Marquette and Gogebic Iron Ranges from 1897 to 1955, which, according to Volume 19 of the Proceedings of the Lake Superior Mining Institute, included the Section 16 Mine in Ishpeming as well as the Cabria Mine in Negaunee among others.

The structure on Pine Street was built to stand the test of time with a “stack” of four fire resistent vaults that still exist in the center of the building according to notes penned by Carr Baldwin who is expected to host the tour of the building.

A February 1904 Mines and Minerals newsletter gives readers turn by turn journey through the building starting with the elaborate entrance which stood “in close proximity to the hematite and iron ore mines.”

“In approaching it, one is impressed with the quiet simplicity of the clean-cut lines and correct proportions of classical design, which; together with the quiet harmony of color in the red brick and brown stone walls and the red roof, tend to make it what it is; “a refined, local home of a large company, in a mining town,” the article states.

The building was used for a variety of purposes which included: providing office space for the mine administrators, housing drafting and producing blueprints, and keeping the timecards of, and paying, mine employees.

“In the center of the west and rear side of the building is located the payroom,” the article states. “entrance and exit to the same being by two rear doors off a platform and steps down to the ground, so that in no case can the payment of the men interfere with the general routine of business.”

Baldwin recalls that the basement of the building formerly housed a three-lane bowling alley on the south side of the building, which was removed and replaced it with a rock core storage area as well as a laboratory for evaluating rock samples in an area that extended westerly from the main basement.

The rock core storage was removed prior to Engineering Consultants of Ishpeming purchasing the building after mining operations ceased, Baldwin said.

Another stop on the tour will be the Grace Episcopal Church, Historical Society Member David Aeh said.

“They are celebrating an anniversary this year,” Aeh said. “Which is why it is so important that they are included in the tour.”

The initial church building was constructed on the corner of First and Canda streets 140 years ago in 1878. The site was donated by Iron Cliffs Company president W.H. Barnum.

Church records show some prominent citizens like Julius Ropes — developer of the Ropes Gold Mine, which is considered one of the most important historic gold mines in the U.P., dating back to 1881. Ropes also served as the local postmaster, a school board member and a druggist.

The tour will take place from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Refreshments will be served at the Grace Episcopal Church, the cost to participate is $10. For more information about the tour, the featured buildings or the organization, visit the Ishpeming Historical Society Facebook page or call 906-486-8680.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.