Cliffs Shaft Mine, photo submitted in 1992.
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Cliffs Shaft Mine
Euclid Street, between Lakeshore Drive and Spruce Street, Ishpeming - Marquette County
Property Type iron mine
Historic Use INDUSTRY/PROCESSING/EXTRACTION/extractive facility
Current Use SOCIAL/clubhouse
Style Exotic Revival
Architect/Builder George Maher (architect)
Narrative Description Today, the Cliffs Shaft Mine site is the best preserved example of an underground mine site on the Marquette Iron Range. Its distinctive, obelisk-shaped head frames are landmarks visible from much of downtown Ishpeming. The site encompasses slightly more than fifteen acres and includes three head frames and eight buildings and structures. The two reinforced concrete headframes were designed by George Maher, a Prairie School architect working with the Condron Company from Chicago. They were built in 1919 around earlier wooden head frames that dated from 1880 to 1882. A third headframe, constructed in 1955, is the first Koep Hoist built in the western hemisphere using technology developed in Germany. This structure is steel-framed with concrete and metal facing. The upper level is wider than the base. The site includes the former dry house (1901-1902), a one-story brick building; the former boiler house (1880), a one-story building of native stone construction; the former engine house (1880), also constructed of native stone masonry; a brick blacksmith shop; the square, brick former mine office building; and a laboratory (c.1917).
Statement of Significance The Cliffs Shaft Mine site has an important place in the history of the Lake Superior and national iron mining industry and survives as the best preserved exampled of an underground iron mine on the Marquette Iron Range. The Cliffs Shaft Mine was the largest and longest-operating underground, direct-shipping, hard ore mine in the Lake Superior region and the United States, producing from 1848 to 1967. The Cliffs Shaft Mine's A and B head frames are unusual and perhaps unique among such structures in the United States as the product of a collaboration between the engineers who usually designed such structures and a professional architect, and because of their Egyptian Revival design, which was the work of noted Prairie School architect George Maher. The mine was closed in 1967. The complex is currently used by the Peninsula Waters Council of Girl Scouts.
Marker Name Cliffs Shaft Mine
Marker Text CLIFFS SHAFT MINE Opened by the Iron Cliffs Company in 1879, the mine was acquired by the present owner, the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company, in 1891. The Cliffs Shaft was the nation's largest producer of hard, specular hematite, a type of iron ore. Over twenty-six million tons were mined, and since 1887 ore was shipped every year but one. The mine was also one of the largest of Michigan iron mines, its sixty-five miles of tunnels running under most of Ishpeming and plunging to a depth of 1,358 feet. As late as the 1930s, there were eight iron mines in Ishpeming. The Cliffs Shaft was the last of these, and its closing in 1967 marked the end of an era.
Period of Significance 1901-1930
Significant Date(s) 1880-1941
Registry Type(s) 08/23/1973 Marker erected
07/17/1992 National Register listed
03/14/1973 State Register listed
Site ID# P24123