Houghton wasn't merely a port for the pass-through of raw materials and wholesale goods. Throughout its history, the city's central waterfront location was attractive to manufacturing and industrial operations. As with the larger Keweenaw Peninsula, much of Houghton's industry related to the production of copper.

The city's position in the local copper industry improved with the rise of the Copper Range Company mines south of Houghton in the late 1890s. The flat land along Houghton's western waterfront provided a perfect location for the company's railroad and dock facilities. The passenger depot of the Copper Range Railroad includes deep eaves to protect passengers from inclement weather. The importance of the railroads can be seen in the size of the company's roundhouse and rail repair facility during its height of success.

These docks witnessed the transfer of millions of pounds of copper ingot produced at the company's nearby smelting works.

Several ancillary industries supported the vibrant copper industry. The Carroll foundry operated on the city's eastern waterfront, producing cast iron and brass fixtures, as well as engines, pumps, and other types of machinery. Adjacent to it, the Pryor Lumber yards produced construction-grade lumber and larger timber supports for area's underground mines. Other support industries included the Croze dry dock, which repaired and constructed lake vessels, and the Portage Lake Mining Gazette that produced the city's first newspaper and provided other binding and printing work for area businesses.

The factories were provided with electricity by the Peninsula Electric Light and Power Company. The construction of this imposing industrial structure in 1890 confirmed the leading role Houghton had taken in the development of regional utility industries. The city had welcomed the area's first telegraph wires in 1866 and James Dee introduced the first commercial telephone lines in 1878.

Houghton's factories produced everything from wagons and harnesses to soap and cigars. There were also a wide range of consumable foods and beverages: the Haas Brewing Company once graced Shelden Avenue, while the Armour meat factory created a variety of sausages and meat products. Dessert was provided the city's fine bakers, confectioners and candy makers.

These industrial operations required a steady workforce and Houghton developed a large pool of laborers. In turn, the industrial workforce required adequate housing and supported the city's professional services and consumer manufacturing industries.

 SenseOfPlace • Industry • TransportationGrowthWarehousesArchitectureMunicipalProfessionalResidentialAssociationsHotels/SaloonsWaterfrontWinter
Back to City of Houghton


Workers at a Houghton mill