The northernmost slice of Michigan. The center of Lake Superior. The site of America's first mining boom. Those who call the Copper Country home live on a foundation of independence, innovation, and tenacity.
When newspaper magnate Horace Greeley encouraged young entrepreneurs to "go west," this was the place he had in mind. Rich in copper and white pine, the western Upper Peninsula of the 19th century attracted workers from across Europe—particularly those from Finland and the English county of Cornwall. As the copper and logging booms moved west, the Cornish and Finnish communities chose to stay, and the Keweenaw remains infused with their culture.
Ask a local about Copper Country culture, and you're likely to hear details of Cornish pasties and Finnish saunas. But more importantly, they'll tell you about a thing called sisu. Sisu (see-soo) is a Finnish term that can't be fully translated. It's grit. Determination. Resilience. Perseverance. It's a form of courage that doesn't come and go.
The miners and loggers of the 19th century built their community on sisu, and up in the Copper Country, it's a way of life still today.
Houghton and Hancock: The Sister Cities
Houghton, Michigan, was named one of the best rural places to live in the United States in Norman Crampton's The 100 Best Small Towns in America. Safewise ranks the city in the top 20 safest college towns in America. Friendly and welcoming, Houghton's historic downtown features locally owned shops, eateries, museums, and brewpubs, while chain restaurants and major shopping outlets are a short car ride away on the business strip.
Across the Portage Canal Lift Bridge is Houghton's sister city, Hancock, the northernmost city in Michigan and one of the leading small arts towns in the Upper Midwest. Home to the area's Community Arts Center and Finlandia University—which is known for its programs in arts and design—Hancock fosters and supports the arts as a strong and growing component of its identity. Individual art exhibits and shows take place every year, highlighting the caliber of local artists and craftspeople.
Houghton, its sister city Hancock, and the surrounding towns have a combined population of approximately 15,000. That number grows to more than 22,000 when including the Michigan Tech student population. The University is embraced by the community—the town-and-gown dynamic is one of cooperation and mutual support. Athletic events are well attended by local residents who are not affiliated with the University, and pride in Michigan Tech is regularly on display.
Top-Tier Community Schools
The Houghton-Hancock area boasts high quality school systems that consistently receive high recognition and awards from the state.
U.S. News & World Report ranks Houghton High School number 38 for all high schools in the state of Michigan, and in the top seven percent of high schools nationally.
The 2017 Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress results place Houghton Elementary School among the top 50 elementary schools in the state for literacy scores.
Many local teachers are Upper Peninsula natives who left the area to pursue their teaching degrees at top-ranked education programs, like the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, before returning to the Keweenaw. Michigan Tech provides teacher certification, development, and graduate programs, with a focus on applied science and mathematics.
Healthcare in the Upper Peninsula
The healthcare needs of the Houghton-Hancock community are tended to by UP Health System–Portage and Aspirus Keweenaw.
UP Health System—Portage offers dedicated services for family medicine, pediatrics, women's health, surgery, and skilled nursing care and wellness, plus ancillary services. The hospital operates 96 beds (36 general acute beds and 60 skilled nursing) and treats nearly 2,000 in-patients each year. UP Health System—Portage also offers a Level III ASC verified trauma center and emergency department, as well as an Express Care walk-in clinic. The system recently announced more than $2 million in capital improvement projects underway at the hospital.
Aspirus Keweenaw is a non-profit, community-directed healthcare organization based in Laurium, Michigan— about 12 miles from Houghton—with clinics and outreach services in the Houghton area. Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital provides 24/7 access to emergency care and is supported by five clinic locations, including a new, multi-service clinic in Houghton.
UP Health System—The Promise of the UP
Commitment to Families
Little Huskies Child Development Center primarily serves the Michigan Tech population, fulfilling the University's goal to attract, assist, and help sustain world-class faculty, staff, and students. Little Huskies encourages and supports each child's growth and development in a caring and nurturing environment. The center is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). This accreditation is reviewed every five years and is a significant indicator of a high level of quality. All teachers are highly qualified, with degrees in early childhood or related fields. Small group sizes and low children-staff ratios ensure each child receives plenty of individual attention. Little Huskies uses HighScope, a research-based curriculum for children from birth to age five. Teachers prioritize outdoor play and natural learning experiences.
This program was created to help spouses and partners of new tenure-track faculty gain knowledge about the University, potential employment opportunities, and other resources at the University and in the local area. The program assists with the employment search and community networking for the couple's first two years in the area.
Houghton is the birthplace of professional hockey, and the area boasts a strong hockey culture. Learn-to-skate and competitive hockey leagues are available from kindergarten on up. Local high schools have strong programs—both the Houghton and Hancock high school varsity teams have won state championships, with Hancock wining in 2016.
Houghton, Michigan, is the birthplace of professional hockey.
The Canal Run was started in 1975 and is the Keweenaw Peninsula's premier running event. Following the rolling hills along the Portage Lake Shipping Canal, the Canal Run offers three distances for runners and walkers of all levels, including a half marathon, 10-mile run, 10-mile walk, five-mile run, and five-mile walk.
The Aspirus Copperman Triathlon & Duathlon take place every August. The triathlon includes a half-mile swim in Lake Fanny Hooe, a 23-mile bike along the shores of Lake Superior, and a five-mile run at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The Copperman Duathlon starts with a 6K run, continues with the 23-mile bike, and ends with another run, this one five miles.
The Breakers to Bridge Paddle Festival is a 10-mile paddle to support the Keweenaw Land Trust's mission of protecting land and water access for public use. The event includes food and music, a silent auction, and a recognition ceremony.
Traveling to, from, and in Houghton
There are numerous travel options for traveling to and from Houghton, and even for getting around town. SkyWest, a partner of United Airlines, currently services the Houghton County Memorial Airport (code CMX), located about eight miles north of the Michigan Tech campus. Daily flights are available to and from Chicago. Rental cars are available at the airport from National Car Rental/Alamo Rent-A-Car. Sawyer International Airport (code MQT), a two-hour drive away, offers daily flights to Detroit.
Rural, not disconnected. The cities of Houghton and Hancock have a small-town, rural feel—but not so far away that Amazon Prime can't reach you with free, two-day shipping.
Indian Trail Bus Line offers both in-state and out-of-state transportation. Destinations include Chicago, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Flint, and Grand Rapids, as well as cities within the Upper Peninsula.
The Houghton Motor Transit Line and Hancock Public Transit are city-operated bus systems with routes that run from campus to the downtown and shopping areas. Curb-to-curb service on campus is available in the evenings when classes are in session. Taxis to and from campus are just a phone call away.