Michigan Roadside Attractions: Champion Mine, Painesdale
Michigan Roadside Attractions is a periodic feature on Travel the Mitten that will explore the many interesting things that can be found on the highways, byways and back roads of Michigan, ranging from the interesting to unusual.
The copper boom that made Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula famous in the 1800s and early 1900s also extended into the southern part of Houghton County as well. The Champion Mine #4 Shaft House and several other buildings still stand today near Painesdale, evidence of a more prosperous time for the area. Exploring mine ruins has become one of our favorite things to do when visiting the Upper Peninsula, and in June of 2016 we had the chance to visit the Champion mine and see what was left.
A historical sign gives a little background on the area’s history and preservation efforts: “When Adams Township switched to a new water supply, the nonprofit Painesdale Mine & Shaft Inc. acquired the Cahmpion #4 Shaft-Rockhouse in 1996. Having escaped the scrapper’s torch a second time, this historic structure now must fight the destructive forces of nature. Little else remains of one of the Keweenaw’s great mining companies, Copper Range Company, which was co-owned by William Paine, the founder of investment giant Paine-Webber. Of the mines that ran from Atlantic Mine to Painesdale, the Champion #4 before you is the only headframe still standing; it is also the oldest shaft-rockhouse remaining in the Keweenaw. Unique in its design, the crushing floor is less automated than later types. It was built in 1902 and enlarged to its present form in 1906, times when hand labor and brute force moved mountains. The Champion #4 embodies the stories of thousands of men who passed through it as they headed to work in the mine below. It speaks of the men that lived and died blasting, tramming, hoisting, and crushing the copper rock that fed the area’s economy. By preserving this structure, the story of those men, their sacrifices, their labors, and their accomplishments will also be preserved.”
Another plaque shows what the entire complex looked like back in the day, with notations for those structures that have survived.
In addition to the #4 shaft-rockhouse, other buildings still standing or identifiable include:
To reach Champion Mine, turn east onto Hubbard St. from M-26 just south of Painesdale. Follow Hubbard St. to the area around 2nd St. where the remaining structures will be visible. Find out more about ongoing preservation efforts at http://painesdalemineshaft.com/.