FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP — The ownership of a fixture of copper mining heritage along the Portage Canal changed hands last week.
After raising over $300,000 via grants and donations from organizations and generous individuals, the Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission was able to close on the purchase of the Quincy Smelting Works Friday. The Quincy Smelter, which was used to extract native copper from rock mined in the Keweenaw between 1898 and 1971, is among the last remaining facilities of its kind. The purchase from Franklin Township is the next step in a long history of efforts dating back to the late 1970s to preserve the site.
“In 2007, the cities of Houghton and Hancock passed a joint resolution that essentially said, ‘please, somebody, do something about the Quincy Smelter’,” KNHP Advisory Commssion executive director Scott See said. “Otherwise, they were going to advocate for reusing the property in some other way. That caught the attention of Senator Carl Levin, who then asked a variety of groups, including the National Park Service and the EPA, to get involved and do something about the smelter. What we heard from the public at the time overwhelmingly was to preserve it. It’s an important part of our local history and our national history.”
The Advisory Commission stepped in to make the purchase in order to eventually put the site into the hands of the National Park Service for long-term preservation.
“What we do hope to do is to continue to stabilize the buildings that are here, select a few of them, maybe the most interesting ones — the ones that are most ripe for interpretation — and do some more work on them to open them to the public to show the public what it was like to work here,” See added.
Other plans include the potential purchase of property adjacent to the smelter to serve as expanded facilities for Isle Royale National Park.
Those interested in seeing the Quincy Smelting Works for themselves can take one of the Quincy Smelter Association’s monthly tours this Saturday at 11:00 a.m. You can visit the group’s website for more information.