Hotels and Saloons

Although many families and businesses have called Houghton their permanent home, the city has also catered to a more transient population as well. Its growth as the center of the region’s major transportation routes guaranteed a steady stream of mining men, salesman and newly-arrived immigrants. Not surprisingly, a significant service industry developed to assist this ever-changing crowd.

It is not easy to determine which preceded the others: hotels, saloons, or restaurants. As a pioneer settlement, Houghton needed to provide food, shelter, and distractions for the developing population. Lacking steady income, large savings accounts and established residential neighborhoods, many new arrivals turned to temporary accommodations for a short-term roof over their heads. Short of boarding with another family, these men took advantage of rooms for rent in the villages and towns of the Keweenaw.

By 1902, Houghton boasted no fewer than 22 hotels and boarding houses. The Houghton House was a good example of simple, affordable accommodation in the early village. Located on the corner of Shelden and Huron Streets, owner William Allen offered daily and weekly boarding rates as well as "barn accommodations" for visitors’ wagons, carriages and teams of horses. The establishment also operated its own saloon on the premises, with fine wines, liquors, beers and "choice cigars." Other hotels, with names like Germania and Torino, likely appealed to immigrants arriving from European nations.

Over time, hotels focused their service toward businessmen and traveling salesmen. Miller’s Hotel and the Douglass House Hotel provided upscale accommodations at opposite ends of Shelden Avenue. Constructed in 1867, Miller’s operated under several names for more than 100 years. Its four stories made it the tallest building in early Houghton, with a distinctive tower adding to its command of the town. The Douglass House was actually two successive buildings; the original 1861 wood frame hotel backed up against Montezuma Street along Isle Royale Street, with a comfortable veranda overlooking a tiered front lawn that spilled downward to the businesses along Shelden Avenue. The hotel was replaced by 1902 with an even more impressive brick and terra cotta edifice. The new hotel included retail storefronts housing a telegraph office and jewelry store, as well as a ground floor saloon and dining parlor.

It was not unusual for hotels to share space with other entertainments aimed toward the city’s transient population. Saloons, restaurants, and billiard halls were common partners. The Hotel Dee, constructed on Shelden Avenue in 1900, even included a five-lane bowling alley in its basement.

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Shelden Avenue scene w/ Douglass House and Millers Hotel c.1920s