Michigan: Houghton County

Houghton County (pop. 36,628) was named for Douglass Houghton (HOE-tun), a geologist who explored the Keweenaw Peninsula and reported on the copper deposits in the area, leading to the 19th-century copper rush. The population reached its peak of 88,098 in 1910.

Houghton lived from 1809 to 1845.

The northeastern part of the county is separated from the rest of the county by Portage Lake and the Keweenaw Waterway – a partly artificial waterway that cuts across the Keweenaw Peninsula and connects Lake Superior to itself.

The upper peninsula is often called “Copper Island.”

The city of Houghton (pop. 7,708), the county seat, is across the waterway from Hancock (pop. 4,634.). They are connected by the Portage Lake Lift Bridge.

The current bridge dates from 1959.

The Houghton County Courthouse was built in 1886 in Second Empire style.

The only Houghton County Courthouse in the U.S.

The Michigan Mining School was established in 1885 in Houghton to train mining engineers for the local copper mines. Today it’s known as Michigan Technological University, and it has about 7,000 students.

Michigan Tech has an annual Winter Carnival.

Hancock was originally a company town for the Quincy copper mine.

Many miners immigrated to Hancock from Finland. Today, Hancock has an annual FinnFest in June and the Heikinpaiva Mid-Winter Festival in January.

The Heikinpaiva parade

Finlandia University opened in Hancock in 1896 as the Suomi College and Theological Seminary.

Affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The village of Calumet (pop. 798), originally known as Red Jacket, was a company town for the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company.

The Calumet Theatre (1900) is still used for concerts and films.

Many of the copper mine executives lived nearby in Laurium (pop. 1,977). The Thomas H. Hoatson House in Laurium is now the Laurium Manor Inn.

Built in 1908

The legendary Notre Dame football player George Gipp (1895-1920) was born in Laurium.

“Win one for the Gipper.”


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