The Quincy Copper Smelter

Abandoned Quincy Copper Smelter Pano / See the set.

Abandoned Quincy Copper Smelter Pano, photo by Whitney Lake

The Quincy Smelter Association says:

The Quincy Smelter is the only remaining copper smelter in the Lake Superior Region. Built by the Quincy Mining Company, the smelter used heat and chemical processes to turn copper ore into ingots. The ingots were then sold and shipped to factories where they were turned into products such as copper wire or tubing.

From 1898 to 1967 the Quincy Mining Company Smelter at Ripley processed copper, first from its mines and then later from its reclamation plant. The smelter complex is built on the stamp sand of the Pewabic mines’ mill. It continued to melt scrap copper until 1971.

Among the buildings remaining on the site are the three-story blast furnace, built in 1898, with additions in 1904 and again in 1910. The sandstone faced mineral warehouse built in 1904 is reached by a 460-foot trestle. The site also includes three rectangular warehouses, a concrete block briquetting plant built in 1906, a powerhouse, a casting house, carpenter and cooper shop for making barrels, as well as a machine shop, and laboratory.

The Copper Country Explorer has an incredible, multi-part tour of the Quincy Smelter that is rich with history and photography new & old. I can’t recommend that link enough! You can get some interesting stories of life at the smelter and the machines they used from the Quincy Smelter blog. The Keweenaw National Historical Park continues the story in Quincy Smelter Stabilization and Rehabilitation, saying that the smelter is now owned by Franklin Township:

The smelter complex is unique in the country and, perhaps, the world in the number and types of 19th and early 20th century buildings and landscape features that survive.

The continued survival of these structures is tenuous. Preservation of the complex is proving challenging. Since the final shutdown of the smelter in 1971, little has been done to maintain it. Severe winters and neglect have taken a sizeable toll; some buildings have collapsed, others are nearly so. Franklin Township took on the property as a preservation-friendly owner, and has endeavored to find new uses for the historic complex, including simply opening it as a heritage attraction as part of Keweenaw National Historical Park.

They also have a report on conditions at the site and plans for the future (includes a nice map of the site). If you’re interested in Michigan’s mining heritage, the Keweenaw National Historical Park (established 1992) is a relatively new and interesting project of the NPS.

Definitely check this photo out on black and see more in Whitney Lake’s Quincy Smelter / Michigan slideshow.

More from the Keweenaw National Historic Park on Michigan in Pictures.

3 thoughts on “The Quincy Copper Smelter

  1. It’s located in Ripley (just east of Hancock) on Portage Lake. It’s normally closed to the public, but the Quincy Smelter Association offers tours periodically. They are only publicized rather randomly, unfortunately.

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