CALUMET, Mich. (WLUC) - The site of Calumet’s Italian Hall is the recipient of much well-deserved attention this fall. Recently, a stone memorial was placed at the site with the name of each Italian Hall victim inscribed within the stone. That stone will be formally dedicated soon. The walkway to the arch was also improved, to make the memorial more accessible to all visitors interested in the site.
In coming weeks, the National Park Service will be making improvements to the adjacent lots to complement the new memorial. These improvements include seven maple trees along the 7th and Elm street sidewalks, and a small fence and the extension of the existing hedge along the back of the lot closest to Elm.
“These improvements will provide a worthy frame for the new memorial, with a greater degree of quiet and a sense of privacy for site visitors who are contemplating the historic Italian Hall tragedy and the significance of the site,” said Superintendent Wyndeth Davis. “It is important for the park to contribute to the community’s work to honor and remember those who lost their lives here.”
Before any site changes, staff from the Midwest Archeological Center of the National Park Service conducted test excavations to ensure that none of the remaining structure (now underground) would be damaged during the project. Prior archeological work at the site was completed by professors and students from Michigan Technological University.
The site is a tangible reminder of the miner’s strike of 1913. On December 24, 1913, the Italian Hall in Calumet hosted a Christmas party for strikers and their families. During the party, held on the second floor of the building, someone yelled “fire.” There was no fire, but the people in Italian Hall tried to escape. Seventy-three people, including fifty-nine children, died when everyone panicked and tried to get down the stairs and out of the building at the same time.
The Italian Hall property is a partnership of the Calumet Village and Keweenaw National Historical Park. The current memorial is made up of three lots. The central lot, with the memorial arch and new memorial stone, belongs to the Village of Calumet, and Keweenaw National Historical Park owns the two lots on either side.