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 regions 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
Over time, hotels focused their service toward businessmen
and traveling salesmen. Millers
Hotel and the Douglass
House Hotel provided upscale accommodations at opposite ends of Shelden
Avenue. Constructed in 1867, Millers 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 citys 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