Fire, ice destroys old church
CALUMET — A former church weakened by a previous fire and scheduled for demolition last fall collapsed overnight on Thursday, causing major structural damage to the village’s Street Department garage, crushing the south wall of the structure.
The collapse occurred sometime before 1:30 Friday morning, according to Street Department Director Marc Klein, who arrived at the garage at 1:30 and discovered the damage.
Klein said between 8-12 tons of concrete rock and brick smashed through the south wall of the garage, piling up against and underneath the grader and another vehicle parked behind it, and the sand truck parked in front of it.
Shelves attached to the wall were destroyed, as was much of the material on them. Electrical outlets were torn loose and wiring were broken, tripping the electrical breakers. Steel wall supports were broken loose, one of which came to rest against the grader.
“It’s wrecked,” said Klein.
He said he called the owner of B&B Contractors in Calumet Township at 2 a.m.
Contract workers hooked chains to a number of the bent iron girders and straightened them out so they could screw the metal siding back to the building.
Klein said after B&B’s crew left, he was waiting for Superior Polymers to arrive to spray a temporary coat of foam insulation on the wall, in effort to keep heat from escaping.
“What else you are going to do with it?” Klein asked. “Dollars and dollars in heat are just flying through the wall right now.”
Cleanup and repairs were hampered by curious onlookers.
“We had everybody and her brother here,” Klein said. “I mean, we had the streets blocked off, to get this (stuff) pulled away from the building, and people are crawling over the barricades to look. It was insane.”
Police, he said, were unable to keep people behind the barricades.
The church was constructed in 1940 by Croatian Catholics and later became John the Baptist Church.
Mary Hunt subsequently purchased the building with the intention of creating a museum.
“My plan was simply to stabilize and preserve a solid, useful building representing an important piece of Keweenaw history: the chain migration of Croatians, Slovenians and Poles. (Poles left for Detroit after 1913),” Hunt stated in a letter to the Daily Mining Gazette on Aug. 11, 2011, four days after the structure was damaged by fire.
Hancock Attorney Matt Eliason became owner of the structure and created a limited liability company (LLC) as owner of the building. B&B Contracting informed Klein the building was scheduled to demolish last fall but was not done in time before the onset of winter.
There is was no insurance on the building at the time of its collapse.