Keweenaw Stories - Quincy Mine's Shaft-Rockhouse

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One of the most prominent structures along the central spine of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula is this one: Quincy mine’s #2 shaft-rockhouse overlooking Portage Lake. A part of one of the Keweenaw’s most profitable and long-lasting copper mines, this building stands over the mine shaft where men would go underground to work their shifts and where copper-bearing rock was brought up from below. One of several mine shafts at the Quincy location, the #2 was the longest, extending over 9,000 feet along the angle and reaching an overall depth of 6,225 feet below the surface. Men mining on the bottom level would have spent their entire 10 hour shift working more than a mile underground! The structure that you see today was built in 1908, during some of Quincy’s most productive years. It’s called a shaft-rockhouse because the construction of the building allows rock to be processed as soon as it’s brought up from below. The 54 degree angle of the roof matches the angle of the copper-bearing lode underground. The height of the building allowed Quincy to use gravity to its advantage. Mine cars know as skips were filled with rock and hoisted from the depths. Rock was dumped from the skip car, through the sorting screens (or grizzlies) {emphasize}, to rock crushers that broke ore into uniform pieces, and into the train cars below. Hoisting these heavy rock loads required a lot of power; in later years, the power was provided by an immense steam hoist built by the Nordberg Company. Quincy was well known for adopting advanced technologies for its time, often improving the efficiency of their operations. Many of the mining procedures developed here in the copper country contributed to the advancement of mining methods worldwide. However new technologies came with a price. They allowed the mine to extract more copper with fewer people, but lead to conflicts between the company and its workers. Rehabilitated in 1987, this shaft-rockhouse is the only example on the Keweenaw that is accessible to the public, as part of the Quincy Mine tour. This landmark serves as a prominent reminder of a time when copper mining dominated the region.

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2 minutes, 24 seconds

Built in 1908, this Copper Country landmark is one of the last few surviving on the Keweenaw Peninsula.


Running Time: 2:25 minutes
Produced by: Dan Johnson
Written by: Kristen Schmitt

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Last updated: June 26, 2022

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