Burned church was to be museum

To the editor:

About your July 20 article on the fire-damaged St. John the Baptist Church in Calumet on Seventh near Elm next to the village garage, three blocks from my house: It was built by Catholic Croatians in 1940 on the site of an elaborate 1903 church that burned.

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.)

It was to be a very simple outdoor museum about Slavic immigration to North America. Two 6-foot-long outdoor display cases would have big maps with superimposed text and illustration boxes.

Some day a user could have renovated the interior for a practical purpose. Meanwhile, a 3-by-4-foot “What is Slavic?” map would show how Slavic languages make up Europe’s largest language family, from Poland, Belarus, and Russia in the north through Ukraine, Czech Republic, and Slovakia, and south to the former Yugoslavia: Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro.

Another map display case, “From There to Here,” would show Slavic communities in the U.S. and Canada and why they settled where they did.

Local history would be highlighted. The first Croatian settlement in North America — before Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago — was right here near the Red Jacket mine north of Calumet.

Read about how the very strong and smart pioneer miner’s wife parlayed her log house/boarding house into the elaborate boarding house/tavern/community center at Seventh and Scott. Three sons became lawyers. Anthony Lucas was Houghton County’s prosecuting attorney in the 1913 strike. Get Louis Adamic’s 1940s bestseller “From Many Lands” from Amazon used books or the Calumet Public Library for her and other immigrant stories. (A few details have been changed.) For more info on Keweenaw Slavs, see “An Interior Ellis Island” at ethnicity.lib.mtu.edu.

While it still stands, take a look at St. John’s and its handsome brickwork on the front facade. The Croatian checkerboard shield (sahovnice) goes back to 1495 and earlier.

Mary Hunt

Ann Arbor

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