Category Archives: Photographs

Records Document Groundbreaking of the Soo Locks

A collection discovered during the current NHPRC project includes records of the Sault St. Marie Canal Company, aka: The St. Mary’s Falls Ship Canal Company.  Ground breaking for the canal began in June of 1853, the engineer L.L. Nichols placed in entry in the ledger reporting on initial efforts for establishing housing facilities and beginning the construction.

The following information is found in the collection titled ‘The St. Mary’s Canal and Mineral Land Company Records’ Accession #115 and is part of the larger Copper Range Mining Company Records Collection

First Report on Canal Construction
First Report on Canal Construction

Nichols reported:

“That we arrived at the Sault on Monday the 11th am.  The first object of solicitude on our arrival was to provide our laborers with comfortable quarters.  Mr. Hearvey took hold of the business of providing lumber [and] materials for building with an energy seldom equaled [and] before night we had a building enclosed 55 by 22 feet [and] part of the roof on.”

“On the 8th day of June at 11 am being 48 hours from the time of our arrive we broke ground for the canal.”

Engineers update on canal construction 9 months later
Engineers update on canal construction 9 months later

A quote from the second report indicates the expectations and challenges faced by the engineers and their progress.

“It is now nine months since operations commenced here, and it may be well to take a retrospective review as well as a prospective view of the work contracted to be completed in our year and twenty days from this time, or about 22 months from the the time of breaking ground.  There was then 230,000 yards of earth and rock-excavation to be done above and below water.  There is now less than 88,000 yards remaining.”

-Excerpt from Engineer L.L. Nichols report dated 14 March 1854

The ledger also provides interesting information on the growth and development of the Upper Peninsula, a Memorium addressed to Congress and the House of Representative in 1854 calls for the state to construct roads in the Upper Peninsula.  Issues cited for the necessity of the roads included the growing Mineral District (Copper Range) and Iron District combined with the construction of the canal increasing Lake Superior traffic.

Sneak Peek at New Exhibit

The Michigan Tech provided a sneak peek at its new exhibit concerning the life and times of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara.

Nara BOC 1










Although the official opening will occur in the library on December 16, we were asked to set it up for the university’s Board of Control meeting on Friday, December 11, in the Memorial Union Building on the Michigan Tech campus.

Nara BOC 2











The exhibit consists of 10 ‘banner up’ exhibit panels highlighting the photos and life of J.W. Nara, a photographer who lived in Calumet, Michigan, in the early Twentieth Century. There is also a small exhibit catalog with cut-out postcards of three Nara photos.

Nara BOC 3

















Dr. Robert Nara and his wife Ruth. Bob is a grandson of photographer J.W. Nara, and provided support for the project.

Archives adds Nissila Livery and Greenhouse Collection


The Michigan Tech Archives has opened the Nissila Livery and Greenhouse Collection for research.  The collection, accession # 08-083A, comprises three cubic feet of documents, correspondence, and photographs. The materials were donated by Pete Nissila in 2009, following the closure of the family’s greenhouse and nursery business in Ripley, just east of Hancock.


Originally called Nissila & Makela Livery and later as the Scott Street Livery, the business began as a livery stable, providing horses and carriages to individuals, companies, and for funeral services.  It was located on Scott Street in Hancock. 


Eventually, the business evolved into a floral shop.  After returning from service in Europe during WWII, Carl Nissila took over the shop along with his wife Gertrude.  He attended Michigan State University from 1948-1950, earning a degree in horticulture.  The floral shop started in the home on Scott Street and later moved to a location on Quincy Street, where it remained until 1952, when the business moved again to Ripley.  The location in Ripley had been in place since the early part of the century, originally being home to a local competitor, Dale’s Greenhouse. 


In 1984, Carl and Gertrude retired, and Carl’s son Pete and his wife Jill took over the business.  Pete was a recipient of a master’s degree in horticulture from Oregon State University in Corvallis.  Locally, during his management of the greenhouse he hosted a weekly radio show on WZRK-FM and offered gardening classes.  The business remained active until 2008, at which time the property went up for sale. 


This collection was processed by Autumn Hall-Tun, a graduate student intern in the Archives during the summer of 2009.



Aerial view of Nissila Greenhouse and surrounding buildings east of Ripley.  The photograph is image #ACC-08-083A-Pt 2  (you can view the record by clicking this link: