Quincy Smelter group still working on preserving site

RIPLEY – The Quincy Smelter site in Ripley may be getting a new owner, but members of the Quincy Smelter Association are continuing their efforts to support preservation and reuse of the site.

The site is owned by Franklin Township, but in October the Franklin Township Board agreed to sell the site to National Park Service for $335,000 plus the forgiveness of $11,437 in loans from the Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission to the township.

The advisory commission made a down payment of $2,000 Oct. 22 and has until Sept. 30, 2015, to pay off the $335,000 sale price. Horst Schmidt, QSA board member, said despite the pending change of ownership, the QSA will continue to operate. “Nothing changes for us at this point,” he said.

According to the mission statement on the QSA website, savequincysmelter.org: “The Quincy Smelter Association assists and represents the community in its efforts to rehabilitate, reuse and interpret the Quincy Smelter by providing educational activities, fostering public interest and by generating financial and volunteer support.”

Franklin Township acquired the smelter property in 1999 from the Quincy Development Corp., which was unable to fulfill a financial obligation at the time. The plan was to lease it to Keweenaw National Historical Park, which is interested in the property because it tells an important part of the copper mining history of the area.

However, in 2002, the EPA determined asbestos and heavy metals on the east side of the property were problems that had to be remediated before development could take place. Workers removed asbestos from 12 buildings on the site in June 2008.

Currently, the QSA board consists of Schmidt, Judy Counts and Mary Brunet. Franklin Township Supervisor Glenn Ekdahl represents the township with the board.

Schmidt said the organization, which began five years ago, needs more volunteers, particularly to do tours in the warmer months.

Ekdahl said the U.S. Department of the Interior provided $1 million and the federal Housing and Urban Development agency about $300,000 to stabilize most of the buildings on the site. That work included installing new roofs and putting walls where needed.

Although some work still needs to be completed on some buildings, Ekdahl said no new federal funding is scheduled for the site.

Schmidt said the smelter site is historically significant and because of that it should be preserved as best as possible.

“This is the last intact smelter from that era (late 19th and early 20th centuries),” he said.

The Quincy Mining Company ended operations at the smelter in 1971 and just closed the doors and walked away. Schmidt said because of that, most of the machinery and other items were left intact, making the site basically a museum.

The smelter site is part of the Torch Lake Superfund site and Ekdahl said because of the work done on the site over the last few years, it should be cleared soon.

“Hopefully, in a year it will be delisted,” he said.

When the site is delisted, Ekdahl said the NPS will be able to do the types of development it determines is appropriate.

Schmidt said Scott See, executive director of the park advisory commission, told the QSA it should continue to operate as it has.

“No matter who owns (the smelter site), we will be here,” he said.

The group will continue to seek donations to help support its efforts, Schmidt said.

“We don’t get any government funding,” he said.

Counts said the QSA is not affiliated with Franklin Township.

“We’re here only to promote and preserve the smelter,” she said.

Schmidt said the QSA is also looking for grants to help cover its costs.

This summer, Brunet said the QSA plans to have some of the smelter site employees still living in the area be on the tours to explain how the site operated.

For more information on the Quincy Smelter Association, email quincysmelter@gmail.com