U.P. Road Trip: Traveling through time in Calumet

U.P. Roadtrip

CALUMET, Mich. (WJMN) – Calumet, established as Red Jacket in 1864, was not legally named as such until 1929.

Calumet offers activities year round and rich history. Dave Geisler a board member of Main Street Calumet and volunteer with St. Paul the Apostle Church and the Calumet theater knows the ins and outs of what makes Calumet a great place to visit.

“I always tell people to start with the National Park Visitor Center because to me it’s a great time capsule,” said Geisler. “When you look around the village today it’s hard to imagine 40,000 people here with street cars, big theater, 30 churches, as many saloons, and I always tell people if there were a method of time travel that is what I would do.”

There are several museums in the area to visit including Coppertown, the Copper Country Firefighters History Museum and the Keweenaw Heritage Center.

Geisler says he thinks the grandest buildings in town are the Calumet Theatre and St. Paul the Apostle Church.

“When the theater was built, first of all you have to understand a lot of the [mine] management came from the east coast, came from Boston,” said Geisler. “And so they were used to big elaborate theater’s and so Calumet wanted to prove that they had made it, that this was a wealthy community that could support a theatre like this and a lot of people don’t realize there was the Calumet Theatre here with 1,200 seats and then Hancock had the Carraige Theater, 1,500 seats, so this was a great theatre town.”

Calumet’s architecture tells the story of mining days in the village.

“I think the size of the buildings, people just have this urge to say, ‘we’ve been successful,’ and ‘look at us, look at all we’ve accomplished,’ I mean think about it, the Village of Calumet was established in 1875 and then just a mere 25 years later you have this grand 1,200 seat theatre,” said Geisler.

The Theatre opened for it’s first show on March 20 in 1900 with a comic operetta called “The Highway Man.”

“I think what was important about opening night was not that production but the headline that appeared the following evening on March 21 and the headline read ‘a blaze of glory,’ and I think that captures the pride had in the theatre back in 1900, I think it captures the pride we have in the theatre even today,” said Geisler.

The Calumet Theatre was built by Charles K. Chand. Chand built several buildings between 1894 and 1903. The lower level is made of sandstone quarried in Jacobsville, the next two levels are cream-colored brick and the building is capped with a copper cornice. The inside was designed by William C. Eckert Company of Chicago.

“The architect was really proud of the fact that both the sandstone and the copper were locally produced material,” said Geisler.

The theatre was a host for live theatrics until motion pictures became popular starting in the 1920s. Now the theatre still hosts performances by local acting groups, school performances, tribute bands, comedians and more.

St. Paul the Apostle church was founded in 1889 by Slovenian immigrants as St. Joseph’s church. The first church building was built in 1890 but burned down in 1902. The current building was also built by Charles K. Shand in 1903 but not completed until 1908.

“At the peak of the population boom here believe it or not there were six catholic churches here in town and they were all associated with different ethnic groups,” said Geisler. “So St. Joseph was Slovenian; there was St. Mary’s, Italian; St. Ann’s, French Canadian; St. John’s, Croatian; St. Anthony, Polish; and then Sacred Heart which was German and Irish. Of those 6 only 2 remain.”

The building is built out of the same type of sandstone as the theatre.

“This is a stone that’s kind of unique to the Upper Peninsula, it can be quarried around the great lakes but it’s called Lake Superior Sandstone,” said Geisler. “Our sandstone actually came from Jacobsville which is located about 20 miles to the southeast of here and you see it everywhere here in the village.”

The inside of the church is modeled after churches in Slovenia, Geisler’s grandparents were members of the church when it was mostly attended by Slovenian immigrants.

“The people who built this church tried to recreate here what they knew back in Europe except on a larger, grander scale,” said Geisler.

Geisler says the stained glass windows were purchased by parishioners of the church when they were put in so each one has, in Slovenian, who contributed to the purchase.

“The saints that are depicted had meaning to the people of the congregation,” said Geisler. “So this second window here, that’s Saint Barbara, and she was the patron saint of miners.”

If you can find the time to visit for more than just an afternoon you can also find art galleries, shops and great eateries in Calumet.

“If you love old bars Schute’s just down the block has this great old stained glass canopy inside, Michigan House is a brewpub, good food, beautiful old bar,” said Geisler. “You could spend days here not just one.”

To learn more about history in the village you can visit the Keweenaw National Historical Park’s website and the Keweenaw Time Traveler website.

Latest Stories

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Follow Us

Trending Stories