Monday, April 8, 2013


Its hard to believe all the snow still here in the UP.  As you can imagine, the smelter is completely cocooned in the white stuff.  If you're coming into Houghton, stop at the Chamber of Commerce parking lot (where US 41 splits into two one way streets).  You'll get a panoramic view of the smelter site on the other side of the Portage Canal.  With the construction of new metal roofs a couple of years ago, the walls and interiors of most of the buildings are more protected from the ravages of nature.  It means the smelter will be here for many years.

You may also notice the "land" the smelter buildings sit on protrudes further into the Portage Canal than other properties around them.  Before there was a smelter, the Quincy Mining Company sent its ore down the hill from the mine head to be processed for copper in its mill.  First, the ore was pounded by heavy metal rods in "stamp" machines into sand, hence, "stamp sands".  Then the next step was to separate the copper grains from the sand by using large tables where the sand was floated away leaving the copper.  Since the percentage of copper was very low, the the high volume of sand had to be disposed of by the company.  The easiest way was to dump it into the canal.  By 1890, the Federal government said the company could not continue because the Canal channel was endangered.  The mill was closed.

So, that's why the smelter sticks out so far.  If you find this story interesting, post a note to let us know whether or not you would like more.


  1. Wow, I never knew that the canal is where they used to dump all that sand and also never knew that's why stamp sands were called stamps sands either!! Very cool!

  2. I love the new blog! I'm really looking forward to the summer and I hope to spend some time at the smelter during public events!