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Houghton, Michigan is the county seat and largest city in Houghton County, in the northwestern Upper Peninsula. Situated on the south shore of the Keweenaw Waterway, across Portage Lake from Hancock, the sister cities are connected by the Portage Lift Bridge.

The chief route through the city is US-41, which runs north to Hancock and Copper Harbor, and south and east to L'Anse and Marquette. M-26 runs downhill as it approaches the western business district of Houghton and the Portage Lake Lift Bridge from the west, entering and running through the center of Dakota Heights before reentering Houghton, and continuing to approach the bridge. As US-41 and M-26 merge in Houghton to cross the only bridge to the north, the city is considered the gateway to the Keweenaw Peninsula.

The open waters of Lake Superior moderate temperatures in the summer and winter, and the city's location on the peninsula, with Lake Superior on both sides, results in heavy snowfalls, which makes for great skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing. At the same time, temperatures are warmer than most winter communities to the west, such as Minneapolis. Average temperatures in the summer are in the 70s and low 80s.

Houghton is home to Michigan Technological University, a public research university situated on 925 acres on a bluff overlooking Portage Lake. Founded in 1885, Michigan Tech offers more than a hundred and thirty degree programs through five colleges and schools.

Besides Hancock, the next closest incorporated city is Crystal Falls, about eighty miles away. However, the villages of South Range, Lake Linden, Calumet, Laurium, Copper City, and Ahmeek are within twenty miles of Houghton, and there are several unincorporated localities within ten miles: Hurontown, Dakota Heights, Ripley, Dodgeville, Franklin Mine, Pilgrim, Dollar Bay, Paavola, Schmidt Corner, Atlantic Mine, South Range, Baltic, Trimountain, Liminga, Point Mills, Osceola, Painesdale, Champion Mine, and Hubbell.

Houghton was a copper mining area long before the first European visited the region, as various indigenous groups and mined copper in and around the area for thousands of years.

French explorers visited the region in the 1700s, but they didn't settle it.

Houghton was founded in the mid-19th century to support the copper industry in what became known as Copper Country on the Keweenaw Peninsula.

However, the first recorded European-American settler was Ransom Shelden, who opened a store near Portage Lake. This may or may not have been the same store that was known as Shelden and Shafer Drugs in 1852. Shelden Avenue was named for him.

A post office was established in Houghton on May 22, 1852, with William W. Henderson as its first postmaster. In 1854, Houghton was platted by Ernest F. Pletschke, a surveyor from Wisconsin, who later served as a captain in command of the Appleton Light Infantry during the Civil War. He contracted typhoid and died in October of 1861. Houghton was incorporated as a village in 1867, taking its name from the county, which was itself named for Douglass Houghton, Michigan's first geologist.

By 1873, the dredging and extension of Portage Lake, the Portage Shipping Canal, and Lily Pond was completed, forming the Keweenaw Waterway, which isolated the northern part of the Keweenaw Peninsula into what has been called Copper Island.

This resulted in a significant increase in copper mining activities throughout Copper Country, and many Cornish and Finnish immigrants arrived to work in the copper mines, along with smaller numbers of French-Canadians.

To support the burgeoning copper industry, the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railway was extended from Marquette in 1883. Houghton Station was constructed in 1890, and the Copper Range Railway locomotive roundhouse and repair shops were built in 1899.

The last nearby copper mines were closed in the late 1960s, but the Michigan College of Mines, created to teach metallurgy and mining engineering, became Michigan Technological University, which is the largest employer in the city today.

Houghton was incorporated as a city in 1970. With a current population under 8,000, the city is locally divided into three neighborhoods: East Houghton, Central Houghton, and West Houghton. East Houghton includes the Michigan Tech campus, a residential area, the Pearl Street Mall, the Chassell Sands, and East Houghton Park. Central Houghton is the heart of the city's commercial district, the waterfront, including several dockyards, and several older residences. West Houghton has seen more recent construction than the rest of the city, and includes larger, middle-class homes with large wooded lots between them, as well as several newer strip malls and retail stores. There are also some beach areas in this part of town.

The focus of this guide is on the city of Houghton, Michigan.


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