Archives—August 2009

New Michigan Tech Building Has Century of History

Michigan Tech is working this summer to convert the former UPPCO building on the waterfront in downtown Houghton into its new “Lakeshore Center.”

A mention of the new project was included in an August 26 article by Stacey Ashcraft inThe Daily Mining Gazette:

As the university expands, there has been a demand for more space, so, last year, Michigan Tech purchased the old UPPCO building.  The MTEC SmartZone received a $3.02 million federal Economic Development grant for renovations to the building. Gundlach Champion has been constructing the project. Now, the former UPPCO building, located on the Houghton Waterfront, has a new name – the Lakeshore Center.  “The project is in process and we’re hoping to be fairly well complete for people to move in late this fall, about Nov. 1,” [MTU Facilities head John] Rovano said. 

The Lakeshore Center will have three floors with three entities – the ground floor will house MTEC with a 20-year lease and the second floor will house Michigan Tech offices as well as Gundlach Champion, Rovano said. The third floor will house university administration, which is moving from Michigan Tech’s campus.  “There are also going to be a number of departments that will be moving, such as accounting and administration,” he said. “There will be a whole lot of moving.” 

What the story fails to mention, however, is the long history of this building on Houghton’s waterfront.  Driving by the building this week, the renovations have begun to expose some clues to the building’s origins.

warehouse1

One can clearly read the word “fruit” — revealing the building’s former use as a waterfront warehouse.

Sources in the Michigan Tech Archives vertical files indicate the building was constructed in the early 1900s as a warehouse storage facility for the Peninsula Wholesale Grocery. A Sanborn fire insurance map for 1908 shows the original building covering only a single waterfront city lot; by 1917 it had enlarged to cover the 4 city lots it currently occupies.

Although the exact date is unclear, the building changed owners and was used for many decades as storage warehouse for the Cohodas-Paoli Company which specialized in the wholesale market for fruits and vegetables. In 1991, the building was renovated by the Upper Peninsula Power Company for use as its office headquarters. Michigan Tech finalized its purchase of the building from UPPCO in February 2008.

A visit to the Keweenaw Digital Archives (http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/) finds many interesting historical photographs of the building.

warehouse2

Although a bit overexposed, the above undated photograph looks from the Ripley hillside across Portage Lake toward downtown Houghton.  The Cahodas-Paoli warehouse is a white building just right of center on the shoreline. (image# MTU Neg 01282 online at http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/showbib.aspx?bib_id=643954)

warehouse3

This photograph appeared in the Tuesday, July 22, 1958, issue of The Daily Mining Gazette.  The caption indicates that Cohodas-Paoli also owned the dock frontage near the building:  “On Sunday the largest consignment of diesel or fuel oil ever to be loaded on a craft at the Cohodas-Paoli dock was paced aboard the Corps of Engineers sand sucker Hains. Slightly more than 20,000 gallons were pumped into the reservoir tank of the ship from three trucks and trailers with carrying tanks on each. The oil came from Gladstone in Detroit tank trucks. The sand barge has departed for dredging work near Bay City. It had been working for the past week at Lily Pond.”   (image #MS051-016-001-006 online at http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/showbib.aspx?bib_id=634850)

warehouse4

The photograph shown above appeared in the February 28, 1972, edition of The Daily Mining Gazette with the caption:  “An enclosed three flight stairway, which was built in the 1940’s on the Cohodas-Paoli produce building in Houghton, is being dismantled by Mattila Contracting to make way for a new front on the building. The stairway was erected for the purpose of providing a separate entrance to the third floor of the building where at that time was located a dressmakers shop to employ women of the area during the World War II years. It was used as a branch of Ely Walker, clothing manufacturer, but was only in existence for a few years.”  (image #MS051-037-001-004 online at http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/showbib.aspx?bib_id=665407)

Some of the best photos, however, aren’t just about the warehouse building, but are those that catch it as a background element.

warehouse5

1972 and the Library Restaurant.  (image #:MS051-038-001-002 online at http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/showbib.aspx?bib_id=664611#)

warehouse6

Unknown date (maybe the 1950s?) with two Coast Guard sailors in front of the Gazette Building on Isle Royale Street.  The Cohodas-Paoli warehouse is in the background. (image #MS044-005-077 online at http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/showbib.aspx?bib_id=625735)

It’s great that Michigan Tech is giving this building new life as the Lakeshore Center — and also lots of fun to celebrate its 100+ year history in photographs as one of the many landmarks on Houghton’s waterfront.

Take some time to locate other photographs of this building in the Keweenaw Digital Archives at http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/