Houghton is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and largest city in the Copper Country on the Keweenaw Peninsula. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 7,010. It is the county seat of Houghton County. It has been listed as one of the "100 Best Small Towns in America."
Houghton is sometimes confused with, or thought to be close to, Houghton Lake; the latter is actually located in the state's Lower Peninsula. Due to its location in the northwestern portion of the Upper Peninsula, Houghton is isolated from the state's most populous areas. It is farther to travel from Houghton to Detroit than it is from Detroit to Washington, DC, or Louisville, Kentucky.
Houghton was named after Houghton County, which was named after Douglass Houghton.
The area lends itself to a wide variety of outdoor sports, both winter (ice hockey, Nordic and Alpine skiing, figure skating, and snowmobiling) and summer (trail running, hiking, camping, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing and road and mountain biking).
The last nearby mines closed in the late 1960s, but a school founded in 1885 by the Michigan State Legislature to teach metallurgy and mining engineering, the Michigan College of Mines, continues today under the name of Michigan Technological University and is the primary employer in the city. MTU has a reputation for being a good value in education and attracting engineering and science students who like the outdoors.
The first known European settler of Houghton was named Ransom Sheldon, who set up a store named Ransom's near Portage Lake, though it is unclear whether this was in the same building as the 1852 Shelden and Shafer drugs, sometimes described as "the first commercial building constructed in Houghton," which Sheldon owned with his son Ransom B. The main street of Houghton, variously called "Sheldon Avenue," Sheldon Street and Shelden Avenue, is named for him. In the 1970s the construction of a parking deck and the connection of downtown stores to create Sheldon Center significantly changed the downtown.
William W. Henderson was appointed the first postmaster of Houghton in 1852.
Houghton gained in importance as a port with the opening of the Keweenaw Waterway in 1873; the waterway being the cumulative dredging and extension of the Portage Lake, Portage Shipping Canal and Lily Pond so as to isolate the northern part of the Keweenaw Peninsula into Copper Island.
In 1854, Ernest F. Pletschke platted Houghton, which was incorporated as a village by Sheldon, C[hristopher] C[olumbus] Douglass and Capt. Richard Edwards three years later. In Houghton's first days it was said that "only thieves, crooks, murderers and Indians" lived there. The postwar boom and increasing demand for copper wiring fueled the development of Houghton in the 1860s and 1870s.
1909 saw the founding of what would later become Portage Lake District Library.
Houghton was the birthplace of professional ice hockey in the United States when the Portage Lakers were formed in 1903. Houghton is the home of the Portage Lake Pioneers Senior Hockey Team. The team's home ice is Dee Stadium, named after James R. Dee. Dee Stadium was originally called the Amphidrome, before it was severely damaged in a 1927 fire. (The stadium also contains a skatepark for skateboarding.)
In the winter of 2001, Houghton was the site of one of the first lumitalos (Finnish temporary snow houses) to be constructed in the United States.
One of the 2006 United States Postal Service snowflake stamps ("photographed in Houghton by Cal Tech physicist Kenneth Libbrecht using a digital camera and special microscope") was unveiled in Houghton.
A pictorial postmark commemorating Winter Carnival 2007, "Ancient Worlds Come to Play in Snowy Drifts of Modern Day," was applied at the Winter Carnival temporary station in Michigan Technological University's Memorial Union Building, February 10, 2007 (see below).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.6 square miles (11.8 km²), of which, 4.3 square miles (11.2 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.6 km²) of it (5.48%) is water.
In the West Houghton neighbourhood is West Houghton Park, containing an outdoor ice rink and lawn tennis courts. Along Portage Lake is the Raymond Kestner Waterfront Recreation Area, the principal feature of which is a large "Chutes and Ladders" playground; it also includes Houghton Beach. Along the waterfront, in the area that used to be occupied by the railroad tracks, runs the "flat, paved" Waterfront Trail for bikers and pedestrians; at one end of this is the Houghton RV Park, at the other end the Nara Nature Park and midway along this corridor is "Mattila Square," which is really nothing more than a parking lot. Prince's Point Beach is also along this trail. Veterans Park is just across the Portage Lake Lift Bridge from Hancock, and contains the memorial to the Houghton Company, which fought in the Civil War. Houghton is the headquarters for Isle Royale National Park.
The Portage Lift Bridge[http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/be/Portagelakeliftbridge.jpg] crosses Portage Lake, connecting Hancock and Houghton, Michigan, by crossing over Portage Lake, which is part of the river and canal system that crosses the entire peninsula. The Portage Lift Bridge is the world's heaviest and widest double-decked vertical lift bridge. Its center span "lifts" to provide of clearance for ships. Since rail traffic was discontinued in the Keweenaw, the lower deck is used to accommodate snowmobile traffic in the winter. This is the only land based link between the north and south section of the Keweenaw peninsula, and is crucial.
While Houghton's winters may be the subject of humor, residents take the subject of snow and winter very seriously. Houghton is one of the premier "Winter Cities" found anywhere. A "Winter City" is a community that accommodates winter, celebrates it, and whose residents generally enjoy the season by participating in a variety of outdoor activities. Among those activities are cross country skiing, snow-shoeing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, ice skating and outdoor hockey, among other activities.
Houghton's summer climate tends to be especially pleasant, as hot temperatures are often moderated by the cool waters of the nearby Lake Superior.
The city houses two museums. The Carnegie Museum, located in the former Portage Lake District Library building, contains photographs from the Raffaelli Historical Photo Collection and other artifacts on the history of the local area, as well as a mural depicting the history of Houghton, Ontonagon, Baraga and Keweenaw Counties and exhibits of artwork. The Seaman Mineral Museum, state mineral museum of Michigan, is located on the campus of Michigan Technological University.
Houghton is often the host of winter sporting events, due to its long winters and many ski hills. The 2006 Cross Country Skiing Junior Olympics took place in Houghton. The US National Championships for Nordic Skiing took place in Houghton in January 2007. In addition, the International Frisbee Tournament (IFT) takes place every year in Houghton and the roll-out of the distance events of the Keweenaw Chain Drive bike races of Houghton and Hancock takes place in downtown Houghton..
Other winter events focus around Michigan Technological University. Michigan Tech hosts a yearly Winter Carnival in which thousands of visitors come to see snow sculptures built by members of fraternities, sororities, other student organizations, as well as a few community groups, and participate in the week-long celebration. Students at the university also receive several days of vacation for Carnival. As part of Winter Carnival 2006, the city of Houghton and the university broke three world records: the largest snowball, the largest snowball fight, and the largest number of people making snow angels in one place. They currently still hold two of these records: largest snowball and largest snowball fight.
The Daily Mining Gazette (formerly The Mining Gazette) is a daily newspaper published in Houghton.
The town is sometimes referred to by locals as "Hoton" or "Ho-town." "Hoton" is even stenciled on city property. Since Houghton and Hancock are very near each other, their combined area is often referred to as "Houghton-Hancock," though the towns are often fierce rivals, something particularly manifested by the sports rivalry between Houghton High School and Hancock Central.
Tourism is a major industry in Houghton. Summer tourism is very popular, especially among those wishing to tour old mines, visit various historical sites, and camp. Winter tourism is also very active from November through April, for snowmobiling, skiing and other winter sports.
There were 2,114 households out of which 21.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.6% were married couples living together, 7.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 58.5% were non-families. 35.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.94. Note that the United States Census Bureau does not consider people living in communal arrangements, such as university dormitories, to be part of a household; this is relevant in a community with a large student presence such as Houghton.
The age distribution was 12.0% under the age of 18, 55.2% from 18 to 24, 15.3% from 25 to 44, 10.3% from 45 to 64, and 7.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 22 years. For every 100 females there were 160.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 173.2 males. The unusual age and sex distribution can be explained by the presence of Michigan Tech, a university focused strongly on the traditionally male-dominated field of engineering.
The median income for a household in the city was $21,186, and the median income for a family was $41,779. Males had a median income of $36,161 versus $28,639 for females. The per capita income for the city was $11,750. About 20.3% of families and 36.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.9% of those under age 18 and 18.2% of those age 65 or over.
| ||US 41 courses north to Hancock and Copper Harbor. To the south and east U S41 routes to L'Anse and Marquette.|
| ||M-26 connects Houghton southwest to US 45.|
| ||M-203 provides a loop route from US 41 in neighboring Hancock to McLain State Park. and then back to US 41.|
Houghton is the port of departure for Isle Royale National Park. Cruise ships on the great lakes formerly (in the 1950s) used to frequently stop in Houghton, but this is now an exceedingly rare occurrence.
Houghton was formerly served by airship. A seaplane departs from Houghton to Isle Royale National Park.
Snowmobiling is a major winter activity in the area, both locally (snowmobiles are often the best available means of transportation after a blizzard) and as a tourist industry. The Bill Nichols Snowmobile Trail has a terminus in Houghton.
Power for Houghton is provided by the Upper Peninsula Power Company.