• Underground Tamarack Trammer Car

    Keweenaw

    National Historical Park Michigan

Calumet's Union Building

A historic image of Calumet's Union Building.
The storefront of Calumet's Union Building has greeted people coming into downtown Calumet for over 100 years just as it did in this 1910 photograph.
Keweenaw NHP Archives
 
Within the windows and walls of Calumet's Union Building is a rich and vibrant history. Behind the glass and bricks was a place where business flourished and secret societies met. Whether they were whispered in beauty salon chairs or told by members of fraternal organizations, the stories of this place have one common thread – this building.
 
The Calumet Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons celebrate their fiftieth anniversary in the third floor ballroom of the Union Building.

The Calumet Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons celebrate their fiftieth anniversary in the third floor ballroom of the Union Building.

Keweenaw NHP Archives

The Union Building illustrates the intertwined relationship between the copper mining industry and the community. Built in 1889 on land donated by the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company, the Union Building served as a transition between the company’s copper mines and Calumet’s commercial district. “Union” did not refer to organized labor, which C&H management despised, but to the partnership between two of the community’s oldest benevolent societies, the Free and Accepted Masons and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
 
The Keweenaw Printing Company’s Union Building Store was typical of business in 1915 Calumet.

The Keweenaw Printing Company’s Union Building Store was typical of business in 1915 Calumet.

Keweenaw NHP Archives.

Designed by architectural firm B.H. Pierce and Company of Hancock, Michigan, the Union Building is typical of lodge halls constructed in the late 1800s. In addition to the meeting facilities on the upper two floors, street-level commercial space was included. Tenants over the years included the Merchant’s and Miner’s Bank, a U.S. Post Office, a beauty salon and the Keweenaw Printing Company.
 
A robe worn by a member of the Masons during their rituals.

A robe worn by a member of the Free and Accepted Masons during their rituals.

Keweenaw NHP Collection

For nearly eighty years, the Union Building served as a meeting place for over twenty of Calumet’s fraternal groups and benevolent societies. Many of these organizations possessed elaborate and secretive rituals that forged strong connections between members and provided them with a level of security and acceptance in the local community. These groups, whose membership was often based on national identity and/or religious affiliation, provide a chronicle of Calumet’s past ethnic and religious makeup.

By donating land to certain groups, C&H attempted to shape the local community to foster its need for a stable, productive and loyal workforce. As a link between the community and company, the Union Building and the people who passed through its doors reveal stories of a copper mining town. This building, like others downtown, provides a window into Calumet’s past.
 

Did You Know?

Looking out over the City of Houghton and Portage Lake towards the Huron Mountains.

"Keweenaw" (pronounced key-wah-nah) is an Ojibway word that means "the crossing place," or "land crossing between two bodies of water." It refers to the Ojibway's use of Portage Lake as a portage across the Keweenaw Peninsula.