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Restoration of village hall floor offers glimpse of past grandeur

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette After decades of being hidden under carpeting from the public, the restored and repaired floor of the Calumet Village Hall once again is exposed to reflect the grandeur that was once the hallmark of the building, as well as the village.

CALUMET — The village of Calumet, which until 1929 was the village of Red Jacket, has a glorious past of wealth and cultural luxury, which is reflected in the Village Hall. The hall has changed remarkably since it was it was initially constructed in 1886. Changes have included a new roof design when the theater building was constructed and adjoined along one wall. At some point in the 20th century, the floor of the hall was carpeted — probably more than once. The carpeting is gone now and in its place is the original asphalt tile floor, which recently underwent some renovation to restore it to its appearance that reflected the wealth and refinement of the village of Red Jacket.

REJ Contracting, of Lake Linden, did the work, said Village Manager Caleb Katz. Because the floor is roughly 135 years old, however, and has dulled with age, the project was not easy.

“They matched it (for color) the best they could,” said Katz, “and all the original hardwood flooring entering the theater has all been redone.”

The project was funded in part by a grant from Keweenaw National Historical Park Preservation Grant program, which is intended to provide annual ONPS (Operations of the National Park System) base funding to the Keweenaw NHP Advisory Commission to assist in the fulfillment of their legislated duties. They include: to carry out historical, educational, or cultural programs which enhance understanding and preservation of the historic and cultural resources in the park and surrounding area on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, according to the NPS website.

“We’re hoping this spring to get an additional Advisory Commission grant to do the Village Office, which is all hardwood,” said Katz.

Currently, the Village Office is carpeted, as is the Council Chamber. The Police Dept. office, located in the same building, also once housed a town jail, the cells of which are still in the dept. office.

The Village Hall was constructed in 1886 at a cost of $14,272, on land owned by the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company and leased to the village. The first floor contained the Village Clerk’s Office, council chambers, fire hall, and the jail, while the second floor houses a hall, where professional performances were one conducted. But for cultural performances, it was too small.

Because of the rich copper lodes of the Calumet & Hecla company, the village of Red Jacket’s fortunes grew along with those of the mine. Established in the heart of the Lake Superior copper region, Red Jacket also became the region’s cultural center.

In,1898, with a huge surplus in the treasury, it was decided that an opera house was needed to serve the community. At that time the village had a population of approximately 4,000 and more than 30,000 lived within walking distance. The opera house was constructed adjoining the Village Hall, and opened on March 20, 1900 and still hosts performances today.

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