Renovation of Quincy continues

RIPLEY – Another building in the Quincy Smelting Works complex had its roof replaced this summer, and members of the Quincy Smelter Association are glad to see preservation of the site is continuing.

During a Tuesday tour of the building called the mineral house, QSA board member Horst Schmidt said putting roofs on buildings and otherwise stabilizing them as well as removing piles of debris, which has collected since the smelter shut down in 1971, are necessary efforts if the site is going to be a viable tourist attraction or location for businesses.

“It’s things like that that make the site look less junky,” Schmidt said. “You don’t see a pile of rubble anymore. You see buildings with roofs.”

The site is owned by Franklin Township, but in October 2012, the Franklin Township Board of Trustees, and the Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission came to an agreement for the sale of the site to the National Park Service for $335,000 plus the forgiveness of $11,437 in loans from the Advisory Commission to the township. The Advisory Commission made a down payment of $2,000 on Oct. 22, 2012. It has until Sept. 30, 2015, to pay off the $335,000 sale price.

Scott See, Advisory Commission executive director, is currently working to raise funds to match a $100,000 donation for the purchase of the site.

According the mission statement on the QSA website, savequincysmelter.org, “The Quincy Smelter Association assists and represents the community in its efforts to rehabilitate, reuse and interpret the Quincy Smelter by providing educational activities, fostering public interest and by generating financial and volunteer support.”

Franklin Township acquired the smelter property in 1999 from the Quincy Development Corp. which was unable to fulfill a financial obligation at the time. The plan was to lease it to the Keweenaw National Historical Park, which is interested in the property because it tells an important part of the copper mining history of the area.

However, in 2002, the EPA determined asbestos and heavy metals on the east side of the property were problems that had to be remediated before development could take place. Workers removed asbestos from 12 buildings on the site in June 2008.

Glenn Ekdahl, Franklin Township supervisor, said the $110,000 cost of the repair to the mineral house was paid by the National Park Service as a work project.

Work still to be done at the site, Ekdahl said, includes new roofs for the warehouse and the charcoal house. Funding still needs to be found for those.

Schmidt said the mineral house, which was constructed in 1904, was where workers would store copper ore before it was processed.

Because of contamination on the site, Schmidt said the Environmental Protection Agency closed the smelter in 1971, and workers just walked away one day, leaving everything as it was, which benefitted the current plans to save the site.

“That’s an accident of history, which was fortunate for us,” he said. “If you have stuff like this, it draws people in.”

The QSA gives tours of the site June through October, and QSA members Mary Brunet, who was also looking at the mineral house Tuesday, said the tours have been going on for six years, but early on they were limited because of the contamination and instability of the buildings.

“The first year we could only be on the outside of the buildings,” she said.

Schmidt said after the NPS acquires the site, the QSA will still be involved in some way.

“They like what we do,” he said. “The park service doesn’t have rangers (to do tours).”


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