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An incredible facet of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is that it’s just as stupendous in the winter as it is in the summer. While I visited in the summer, the winter brings incredible amounts of snow––210 inches in winter 2018 alone. If you are skiing or visiting Houghton or Hoxton, Laurium is where you will want to stay. From Laurium Michigan, you are within twenty minutes of skiing, the Michigan Tech University Winter Carnival, and the ferry to Copper Harbor.
When I was in Michigan’s UP, my mom and I intended on kayaking Lake Superior, hiking everyday in the Porcupine Mountains, and appreciating nature. On our first day out, I got us turned around and we hiked five miles more than we intended. When we finally made it back to civilization, our legs were tired and we needed to figure out an alternative idea for the next day.
We decided to head up the Keweenaw Peninsula to see what some of the larger towns of the Upper Peninsula had to offer. First we stopped in Houghton, a delightful college town on the portage canal. Afterword, we headed to Laurium Michigan to see some mansions.
Getting to Houghton and Laurium
Houghton is the first major populated town north of Ontonagon. At just about 60 miles northeast of Ontonagon, it is both a university town and the seat of wealth from Michigan’s Copper heyday. Home to Michigan Technical University, the town has a steady population of around 7,700 people.
We visited Houghton on the Fourth of July, so quite a few stores were closed for the holiday. Others had late openings or shortened hours. Something I did not expected was how hilly it was! If you are visiting in the winter, make sure to have winter emergency supplies in your car like a shovel, blanket, food, and water. After just walking, it made sense why the Upper Peninsula is good for downhill skiing. The nearest ski mountain to Houghton and Laurium is the inimitable Mount Bohemia.
When we were planning our trip up the Keweenaw Peninsula, various people recommended that we stop in Laurium, Michigan, despite staying south near Porcupine Mountains lodging. I always trust the opinion of locals so my mom and I quickly made our way further north.
A Little Laurium Michigan History
Laurium Michigan was originally part of the township of Calumet. After local copper mining increased population density, there were more postal demands. Thus, the village of Laurium incorporated in 1895. Laurium is derived from a Greek copper mining town of the same name. Walking or driving around town, you’ll see from the early 20th century.
Laurium Michigan’s most notable hometown hero is Notre Dame legend George Gipp, aka “The Gipper.” There is a lovely streetside park in his honor located at the corner of Lake Linden Avenue and Tamarack Street. The town’s ice arena is also named after the lost-too-soon hero.
The Mansions of Laurium Michigan
With all the wealth gleaned from mining, the titans of copper built incredible homes in Laurium Michigan. While you can drive the streets and see a plethora of Queen Anne and Colonial style homes, there are two homes that stand out. These veritable mansions are today known as Victorian Hall Bed and Breakfast and Laurium Manor Inn. Lucky for us, they are both bed and breakfasts that accept visitors!
Victorian Hall Bed and Breakfast is the home of Laurium Michigan’s drugstore owner at the turn of the 20th century. This gentleman, Norman MacDonald––not of Saturday Night Live fame––invested his profits very well in mining and built a 7,000 square foot home. Today, it is a lovely bed and breakfast that is open spring through autumn in Laurium Michigan.
Just across the street from Victorian Hall is the year-round bed and breakfast, Laurium Manor Inn. Built for the owner of an area mine named Thomas Houtson, Laurium Manor Inn is a 13,000 square foot marvel from 1908. While we weren’t staying in Laurium, the Inn is open for tours for $7/person or $4/child. Call about 15 minutes ahead of time in order to make sure that someone is there to receive you.
The Laurium Manor Inn Tour
I urge you to take the Laurium Manor Inn tour, even if you don’t happen to stay in Laurium Michigan overnight. The owners of the former Hoatson home have painstakingly restored the home and love showing the beauty of the home to guests. It is self led, so the tour can take as much or as little time as you’d like! There is both a trifold pamphlet for reading, and an audio tour available online, making the tour accessible to those with vision or hearing difficulties. So much of the home is authentic, with original push buttons for lighting and individual room thermometers.
No Matter the Season, Laurium Michigan is a Good Bet
Laurium Michigan is worth a stop. In the winter, it’s close to some of the Midwest’s snowiest ski hills. Other times of the year, it is a great hub for Michigan Technical University. Whether you are staying in the Porcupine Mountains, heading north to Copper Harbor, or on to Isle Royale, check out Laurium Michigan in the Keweenaw Peninsula.
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