Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Calumet's Butler Row Housing--Immigrant Life in Industrial Calumet

Life in Calumet's industrial spaces was cramped, especially for the area's immigrants. In Community in Conflict, we detail one such space--the Butler Row Houses. Packed into this group of attached houses with about 5,000 square feet were almost 90-some people. Maps and an image of the row houses show the utterly cramped conditions in which some immigrants lived.

The Butler Row Houses, to the left of the "D" in the center of this image, show the tiny, cramped living conditions where sometimes a family of 5-10 would live. The above image is from a turn-of-the-century Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Calumet.

This circa 1910 image of Calumet shows the Butler Row Houses. The houses, which are shown at side view (the almost round shaped roof) in the center of the image just behind the road that runs through the center of the image, were packed tightly into Calumet's urban setting. Keweenaw National Historical Park archivist Jeremiah Mason shared this photo with us and it is from the Park's collection of images.

From Community in Conflict:

A snapshot of the lives of eastern European working-class immigrant families
can be seen by examining the Butler Row Houses, an approximately 5,600-square foot
structure comprised of eight miniature boardinghouses in Calumet. Packed
into the Butler Row Houses were dozens of working-class immigrants at the time
of the 1910 U.S. Census. The Butler Row Houses was actually a row of small, one and-
a-half-story houses connected by common outside steps. These houses were
approximately 562.5 square feet each and were subdivided into two units. Within
these small units lived large groups of working-class families with up to twelve
residents per house. Tellingly, the row of boardinghouses was marked “tenement”
on a 1907 Sanborn map, and in terms of living conditions the Butler Row Houses
differed little from the tenements of major eastern cities. Eighty-one working-class
immigrants and American-born children squeezed into these cramped spaces.

Th e Millers—Louis, Margaret, and Mortiz—were one such Butler Row Houses
family. Louis, the husband, father, and “head” of the family, emigrated in 1901 from
Croatia. By 1910, Louis had taken a job at Calumet where he, like so many local
Croatians, worked as a trammer. Margaret, Louis’s wife, a Croatian-born woman
who immigrated to the United States in 1908, worked as a boardinghouse keeper,
tending to the family’s boarders and their infant son, Mortiz, who was born in
Michigan. Th e Miller household also included seven Croatian-born boarders, all of
whom labored as trammers, as well as Annie Yalich, an eighteen-year-old Croatian
woman who worked as a servant in the home.

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