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Hancock is a city in Houghton County, Michigan, United States and is located on Copper Island, which is part of the Keweenaw Peninsula, on the Keweenaw Waterway directly opposite Houghton, Michigan. The population was 4,634 at the 2010 census. The city has been consistently ranked as the third-snowiest city in the United States by The Weather Channel.[6][7]

Hancock, Michigan
View from Houghton looking across the Keweenaw Waterway
View from Houghton looking across the Keweenaw Waterway
Location within Houghton County
Location within Houghton County
Hancock is located in Michigan
Location within the state of Michigan
Coordinates: 47°07′49″N 88°35′47″W / 47.13028°N 88.59639°W / 47.13028; -88.59639
CountryUnited States
Organised as a Village10 March 1863
Incorporated as a city10 March 1903
 • TypeCity council
 • City managerGlenn Anderson
 • Total2.57 sq mi (6.67 km2)
 • Land2.57 sq mi (6.67 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)  12.5%
696 ft (212 m)
 • Total4,634
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,771.56/sq mi (684.02/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (EST (UTC-5))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT (UTC-4))
ZIP code(s)
Area code(s)906
FIPS code26-36300[4]
GNIS feature ID0627710[5]
WebsiteOfficial website



The earliest building in what is now the City of Hancock was a log cabin erected in 1846 on the site of the Ruggles Mining Claim, halfway up atop the hillside; it is no longer standing as the site has been taken up by the Houghton County Garage buildings.[8][9] It was owned by Christopher Columbus (C.C.) Douglass, who came to live there in 1852. The Quincy Mining Company founded Hancock in the year of 1859 after purchasing the land from Douglass and building an office and mine on the site.[10][11][12][13][14] The city was named after John Hancock, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.[15][9][16]

Hancock's first store was built by the Leopold brothers in 1858; the store also housed the first post office. Samuel W. Hill, an agent for the Quincy Mining Company, platted the Village of Hancock in 1859.[9][13][13] On 20 August 1860, Bishop Frederic Baraga and Reverend Edward Jacker selected lots nine and ten of block eight in the village for the purpose of constructing a church. It was on the northeast corner of what is now Quincy and Ravine Streets. The Quincy Mining Company donated this ground, but for a reason unclear the official paperwork didn't go through for this until 2 July 1875.[17]

In the earliest days of Hancock, the village had been within the borders of what is now the Portage Charter Township, however, on 1 April 1861, the area was set off and organized into a new township called Hancock Township.[13] The Portage Stamp Mill was also founded nearby at Portage Lake in 1861.[18] In the year 1860, the Keweenaw Waterway was dredged, widening the then-Portage River to allow more aqua transportation to Hancock, and neighbouring Houghton. However, the waterway was initially opened to ships in 1859.[19]

On 10 March 1863, the Village of Hancock was officially organized and the first officers were elected in the office of William Lapp, the justice of the peace and a pioneer lawyer of the time. Hervey Coke Parke was elected as the first village president. This is considered as the founding date of Hancock.[20][21][18][13]

M.J. McGurrin opened the first drug store in the village in 1865. There were also a few small grocery stores where James Artman sold handmade harnesses. The population of the town may have been about four hundred people in all, the majority of whom were miners who had occupied smaller houses near the vicinity of their workplace, the mines.[18]

On Sunday, 11 April 1869, Hancock is struck by the worst fire in the community's history when a stovepipe in a local saloon where the post office is now located had exploded and engulfed the building in flames. It soon spread across the village with the help of a strong west wind. The fire ended up destroying some 150 buildings, including every store in the village and almost all of the business places in general, the wooden bridges that had stretched across the ravines, and an additional 120 homes. At the time, Hancock had no fire department or fire equipment in the village, however, this short-lived fire had completely obliterated three-fourths of Hancock. It took two years to rebuild the village.[22][17][23][24][18][20][11][12] Famously, Mary Chase Perry Stratton, the founder of the Pewabic Pottery, survived the 1869 fire without injuries.[25]

On 1 March 1871, in response to the devastating fire of 1869, the Hancock Fire Department was officially organized. In an 1883 publication the fire chief, Archibald J. Scott, stated that the fire department had 2,500 ft of hose on hand and that the water supply was ample.[13][26]

The Mineral Range Railroad began providing passenger and freight service between Houghton, Hancock, Dollar Bay and Calumet in 1873.[27][28] The Mineral Range had their yards along Portage Lake near Tezcuco Street.[11]

In 1876, the Reverend Alfred Elieser Backman arrived in Hancock and served as the Copper Country's first pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. He found a divided community of Finnish Lutherans in which some were faithful followers of the Church of Finland, and others Laestadian.[18][29] Backman later found the situation too unstable for his handling and was replaced by the Reverend Juho Kustaa Nikander who had arrived that same month in January 1885.[20][29] By the year 1889, four pastors from the Church of Finland were serving Finnish communities in the Upper Peninsula, among them was Reverend J.K. Nikander, along with Rev. Jacob Juhonpoika Hoikka (who had served as Nikander's co-pastor), Rev. Kaarle L. Tolonen of Ishpeming, and Rev. Johan W. Eloheimo of Calumet. The four pastors met often and eventually founded the Suomi Synod on 25 March 1890, though they had conceived the idea as early as November 1889.[20][29][30][18]

Suomi College was founded in September 1896 by J.K. Nikander, and later, on 21 January 1900, Suomi College had completed their first building, "Old Main" on Quincy Street. As many as two-thousand people traveled to Hancock to see the laying of the cornerstone.[11][20][29][31] Akin to a large handful of historic buildings in the city, it is made of Jacobsville Sandstone[11][12] and is built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture.[12] For eight years, Nikander, who had served as the College's first President, resided in Old Main.[20]

The Houghton County Traction Company also offered street car service from Houghton through Hancock to Calumet, Mohawk and Hubbell beginning in 1902.[11][32][33] In fall of 1902 the Kerredge Theatre was completed by William and Ray Kerredge in response to the wildly popular Calumet Theatre.[34][35] Hancock was officially incorporated as a city on 10 March 1903 and subsequently divided into four wards. The then-incumbent village president Archibald J. Scott was elected as the city's first mayor.[15][13][36][9] A few years later, in 1906, the famous Scott Hotel on East Quincy Street was completed.[11][37][38]

Looking East down Water St. around 1906

Prior to World War I and around the time of the tempestuous Copper Country Strike of 1913–14, the population of the city had dropped from its all-time high of 8,981 to 7,527 as many families moved away with the heads of their households to seek a means of living in the factories of Lower Michigan, and Wisconsin or in other copper mines in Montana.[13]

Misfortune came to Hancock following the financial crash in 1929 as mines began to close for lack of a profitable market. Copper at the time sold for only five cents a pound.[13] The Quincy Mine closed in 1931, and neighbouring mines closed in the following year.[39][13] By 1934, one third of the families in Houghton County were seeking aid through the relief program set up. The Quincy Mine resumed its operations in 1937, but discontinued them in 1946, one week after Japan surrendered in 1945, ending World War II.[13]

Joint preparations with the neighbouring city of Houghton were undertaken and carried out in 1963 to install a sewage disposal plant to prevent the contamination of Portage Lake.[13]

During the United States Bicentennial in 1976, then-Finnish President Urho Kekkonen paid a visit to the Hancock area and entirely filled the Michigan Technological University ice arena in Houghton when he gave his official address to the local Finnish-American community of the region.[20][40][41] In the year 1990, a rundown former Catholic church on Quincy Street was renovated extensively with traditional Finnish architectural styles and it thus officially became the Finnish-American Heritage Center.[12][42]


Hancock is on the north bank of the Keweenaw Waterway, opposite Houghton, Michigan. Portage Lake is at right center of this 2010 photo.

The City of Hancock is further north than Montreal in Quebec, Canada.[9] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.97 square miles (7.69 km2), of which 2.60 square miles (6.73 km2) is land and 0.37 square miles (0.96 km2) is water.[43] Hancock is connected to the city of Houghton by the iconic Portage Lake Lift Bridge, which crosses the dredged Keweenaw Waterway. The Keweenaw Waterway is the body of water which effectively slices the Keweenaw in two. Both Houghton and Hancock are situated on 500-foot bluffs similar to San Francisco, especially on the northern side upon which Hancock lies.[31]

The city is bounded on the south by the Portage Canal, parts of Quincy, Hancock and Franklin Townships; on the east by West Ripley; and on the north by Quincy and Hancock Townships.


Hancock has a humid continental climate, with typically long and snowy winters and much lake effect snow. Hancock has the distinction of being the third-snowiest city in the United States, the snowiest city in the Midwestern United States, and the snowiest city in the Eastern United States, with snowfall averaging 211.7 inches per year. The city is located along the lake effect snow-prone Keweenaw Peninsula. In the 1978–79 snow season, a whopping 390 inches of snow fell in Hancock. Accumulating snow has been known to fall as late as early June here.[6][7]


  • The Finnish-American Heritage Centre and Finnish-American National Historical Archive, the most comprehensive collection of Finnish American history on record, as well as museum, cinema, art gallery, home of the Finnish-American Reporter newspaper, an honourary consulate of the Republic of Finland, and a Heritage Site of the Keweenaw National Historical Park.[46][47][48]
  • Located one mile west of Downtown Hancock on M-203 is the Hancock Recreation Area on the shores of Portage Lake. It is over 28 acres in size and is also considered one of the best quality campgrounds in the Upper Peninsula.[49][11][31]
  • Old Main, the first building of Suomi College (now Finlandia), which is recognised of national historic significance.[50]
  • Mont Ripley in Ripley, a neighbouring community, is a popular ski area for locals. It is the oldest ski resort in the State of Michigan.[51]
  • Finlandia University itself, the only Private university in the entire Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and the only operating university in the United States founded by Finnish immigrants.[52][31]
  • The Copper Country Community Arts Center on Quincy Street is host to three galleries, the Kerredge Gallery, the Youth Gallery, and the Artist Market Sales Gallery. Together the galleries portray the works of more than 170 local and regional artists.[53][54]
  • The historic, NRHP-listed Hancock Town Hall and Fire Hall.[55]
  • The birthplace of Mary Chase Perry Stratton, the founder of the Pewabic Pottery, is now called the Pewabic House and operates as a museum. The building is also variously known also as the Perry-Stratton House.[11][25]
  • The Keweenaw Co-op Natural Foods and Groceries on Ethel Avenue has served the area in traditional ways since 1973.[56][31]
  • Gemignani's Italian Restaurant, which has served the area's population since 1982.[57]
  • Temple Jacob, the only synagogue in the Copper Country on Front Street.[58]
  • The Houghton County Marina is located in Hancock and has 44 seasonal and 10 transient ships operating annually. The marina also offers an option for boating, as well as a pleasant view of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge.[31]
  • The Turquoise Art Gallery, established in April 2003, is host to many national and international exhibitions annually.[59][60]
  • The Detroit & Northern Savings and Loan Association building on Quincy Street, the only High-rise building in the city.[61]
  • The six surviving Quincy Mining Company houses on Hillside, Sampson, Roosevelt, and White Streets, respectively.[62]
  • Fin Pro on Quincy Street, which provides potential customers with a wide range of appliances for one's sauna.[63][48]
  • The Finlandia Reflection Gallery in the Jutila Center on Michigan Street has a display of various artwork from students of the University's International School of Art & Design program.[64]

People and cultureEdit

Finnish-American cultureEdit

Hancock has been called "the focal point of Finns in the United States[65] and many Finns settled in Hancock because the forests, the lakes, and the clear blue skies reminded them of home.[16] Since 1983, the City of Hancock has had an active Finnish Theme Committee that is entrusted with preserving the local Finnish heritage of the region.[20] In recognition of the large number of Finns in the area, some street signs in Hancock are written in both English and Finnish.[66]


Hancock hosts an annual midwinter festival called Heikinpäivä in mid-January, celebrating the feast day of Saint Henrik of Uppsala, the patron saint of Finland, and Heikki Lunta.[15][66] Every June, the cities of Hancock and neighboring Houghton host a festival known as "Bridgefest," to commemorate the building of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge.[15][66] Also held in June is the Keweenaw Chain Drive Festival.[66][67] The Keweenaw Trail Running Festival takes place each July.[66]


Census Pop.
Est. 20174,560[3]−1.6%
U.S. Decennial Census[68]
Hancock sign

2010 censusEdit

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 4,634 people, 1,882 households, and 934 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,782.3 inhabitants per square mile (688.1/km2). There were 2,111 housing units at an average density of 811.9 per square mile (313.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.7% White, 1.2% African American, 1.0% Native American, 1.7% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.1% from other races, and 1.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.4% of the population.

There were 1,882 households of which 21.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.4% were married couples living together, 9.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 50.4% were non-families. 37.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 13% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.90.

The median age in the city was 34.1 years. 16.7% of residents were under the age of 18; 21.8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 20.8% were from 25 to 44; 21.5% were from 45 to 64; and 19.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.5% male and 50.5% female.

2000 censusEdit

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 4,323 people, 1,769 households, and 902 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,727.5 inhabitants per square mile (667.0/km2). There were 1,983 housing units at an average density of 792.4 per square mile (305.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 96.0% White, 0.8% Black or African American, 0.9% Native American, 1.1% Asian, <0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.2% from other races, and 1.0% from two or more races. 0.8% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 32.2% were of Finnish, 14.4% German, 8.2% English, 5.3% Italian, and 5.2% French ancestry according to Census 2000. 94.4% spoke English and 4.4% Finnish as their first language.

There were 1,769 households out of which 23.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.2% were married couples living together, 9.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 49.0% were non-families. 38.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.97.

In the city, the population was spread out with 19.0% under the age of 18, 18.0% from 18 to 24, 22.6% from 25 to 44, 20.1% from 45 to 64, and 20.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $28,118, and the median income for a family was $36,625. Males had a median income of $27,090 versus $22,150 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,669. About 6.9% of families and 14.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.0% of those under age 18 and 15.1% of those age 65 or over.


UP Health System-Portage in 2005

The East Hancock neighborhood is part of the city and consists of many old Victorian-style houses which were once owned by mining company officials.

Doctors' Park is a neighbourhood located in West Hancock near the former Portage View Hospital Building (now the Jutila Centre of Finlandia University). It lies north of West Quincy Street.

The Quincy Street Historic District encompasses the center of Hancock's downtown, covering the 100, 200, and 300 blocks of Quincy Street.

UP Health system operates a Hospital with a Level 3 Trauma Center at 500 Campus Drive Hancock, MI 49930 called the UP Health System - Portage.


The 2004 Professional Walleye Trail Championship Tournament was held partly in the city.[15]

Parks and recreationEdit


The Jack Stevens Rail Trail runs through the city of Hancock and continues on 14 miles north to Calumet on a now-abandoned Soo Line Railroad grade.[31][69]


The Keweenaw Trail or Trail 3 is the main snowmobiling route to and from Houghton and Hancock, it connects to other nearby trails including the North and South Freda Trails which lead toward Lake Superior, and the Stevens Trail which goes to Calumet.[31]


Old Main, Finlandia University

Public educationEdit

Elementary-school students attend the Gordon Barkell Elementary School (formerly Hancock Elementary School), middle school students Hancock Middle School and high-school students Hancock Central High School. Hancock Central High and Hancock Middle School are now connected.

Higher educationEdit

Hancock is the home of Finlandia University (formerly Suomi College). Suomi College was founded in 1896 by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. In the 1880s large numbers of Finns immigrated to Hancock to labor in the copper and lumber industries. One immigrant, mission pastor J. K. Nikander of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, headquartered in Hancock, wanted to ensure seminary training in America. He had observed that Swedish and Finnish immigrants along the Delaware River did not train new ministers, and he feared a loss of Finnish identity. In 1896 Nikander founded Suomi College. The college’s role was to preserve Finnish culture, train Lutheran ministers and teach English. During the 1920s Suomi became a liberal arts college. In 1958 the seminary separated from the college. Four years later the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America merged with other mainstream Lutheran churches. The cornerstone of Old Main, the first building erected at Suomi College, was laid on May 30, 1898. Jacobsville sandstone, quarried at the Portage Entry of the Keweenaw waterway, was brought here by barge, cut, and used to construct Old Main. Dedicated on January 21, 1900, it contained a dormitory, kitchen, laundry, classrooms, offices, library, chapel, and lounge. The burgeoning college quickly outgrew this building, and in 1901 a frame structure, housing a gym, meeting hall, and music center was erected on an adjacent lot. The frame building was demolished when Nikander Hall, named for Suomi’s founder, J. K. Nikander, was constructed in 1939. The hall was designed by the architectural firm of Saarinen and Swanson, the former of which being the world-renowned Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen.[70][71]

Several parts of the campus of Michigan Technological University are also located in Hancock, including a former MTU "underground classroom" in the Quincy Mine.[72]



Intercity busEdit

Indian Trails bus lines operates a terminal at the Shottle Bop Party Store, 125 Quincy Street. The services runs between Hancock and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[74] Until January 31, 2007 this was operated by Greyhound Bus Lines.

Public transportationEdit

In the very late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Houghton County Traction Company ran a trolley system with service from Houghton, through Hancock, and on to other such destinations with the other boundaries being Hubbell to the northeast, and Mohawk to the far north.[11][15][32] The Mineral Range Railroad also historically served the city.[28][11]

Hancock Public Transit operates a demand bus which will take riders to anywhere in Hancock, Houghton, or Ripley. The service is headquartered on Quincy Street.[75][76][31] Checker Transport also provides service to the Hancock area from a satellite office in the region, though the main office is in Marquette.[77]

Notable peopleEdit