At the height of the Keweenaw’s  copper-mining glory, the Calumet and Hecla Consolidated Copper Company, operating largely in Calumet, proved the grandest operation of all. At the turn of the 20th century, C&H employed some 11,000 workers, who extracted more than 1.5 billion tons of copper from a web of mines tunneled out under Calumet.
Striking red sandstone buildings with false fronts and cornices lined the 12-square-block downtown, filled with elegant shops, soaring churches, some 70 saloons, even a lavish theater that attracted the nation’s leading vaudeville stars. The city buzzed day and night both above—and belowground.
After mining died, no one ever bothered to “modernize” Calumet. As a result, downtown Calumet is a marvel of architecture from the early 1900s, and was a deciding factor in the area earning national historical park status.
Thanks to the Keweenaw National Historical Park  and renewed civic pride, downtown Calumet looks more like a movie set everyday. Ugly 1960s facades are coming down off the elegant sandstone and brick buildings, and new money is coming in to further restore and preserve them. To appreciate this architectural bonanza, stop by the Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau (56638 Calumet Ave., 906/337-4579, www.keweenaw.info , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri.) to pick up a walking tour guide.
A few stops of particular note: The Union Building, at 5th and Red Jacket, was home to one of the area’s first banks in 1888 and remains in excellent shape, with a decorative metal cornice. Shute’s Bar (322 6th St.) doesn’t look that special on the outside, but the interior preserves ornate plaster ceilings and a magnificent back bar with a stained-glass canopy.
The Red Jacket Town Hall and Opera House, now called the Historic Calumet Theater (340 6th St., 906/337-2610, $4 adults, $1.50 children 6–12), was the pride of the community. The theater portion, added in 1898 as the first municipally owned theater in the country, was a showy extravagance of plaster rococo in cream, crimson, green, and gilt. It even had electric lights!