Doug House 1&2
517 Shelden Avenue, Houghton, MI 49931
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517 Shelden Avenue

National Register of Historic Places
Douglass House, built 1899-1900
Douglass House Apartments, established 1984
Elaborate 1899 addition extended hotel to Shelden Ave.

The $100,000 building was heralded as “the finest hotel in the Upper Peninsula” and promised to make Houghton “the Mecca of the entire traveling and tourist fraternity.” Copper Country Evening News 

The original Douglass House was a three-story wood structure built on the southeast corner of Isle Royale and Montezuma streets. The 50-room hotel, completed in 1861, was connected to Shelden Avenue by a grand staircase that cascaded downhill through a terraced garden.

In 1899, Chicago architect Henry Ottenheimer was hired to design an addition. The Italian Renaissance style addition extended the building to Shelden Avenue and doubled the number of guest rooms. The new main entrance, on Isle Royale Street, featured an ornate portico topped with a stained-glass window and two winged lions. (Notice the initials “DH” on their breastplates!) The general reception room had a tile floor, oak wainscoting, and marble base board. Delicate gold stenciling “adds greatly to the rich and luxurious effect produced by the decorator in ornamenting this room.” A secondary parlor held a grand piano. Ladies had their own entrance and parlor. The spacious main dining hall boasted white enameled paneling, green paper, heavy beams, and a ceiling “ornamented with plaster-work and gold stenciling.” The north side first floor, on Shelden Avenue, included a bar, billiard rooms, and railroad ticketing offices – so guests could purchase tickets without leaving the hotel. John C. Mann, the proprietor, was apparently lured to Houghton from Ashland, WI where he was famous for his planked whitefish.

Shortly after the elaborate renovations, a fire destroyed much of the original structure. Undaunted, Mann soon rebuilt the damaged portion. He continued ownership until his retirement in the mid 1920s. Accompanying photo shows the original wooden gabled building to the south of the new brick addition. 

As area mining declined, so did the hotel’s business. In 1975 the dining hall was replaced with a restaurant and in 1984 the rooms were renovated as apartments. Today, the Douglass House provides downtown housing for senior citizens. The historic Douglass House Saloon, largely unchanged, remains a popular local tavern and one of the longest continually operated businesses in downtown Houghton.

Sources: Copper Country Architects; Historic Houghton Walking Tour (c.2000); History of American Architecture SS422 Term Projects (Spring 2000); Keweenaw Time Traveler; National Register of Historic Places registration (1987).; Image: Michigan Tech University Archives and Historical Collections MTU_Book LD3328H3-7-1_MTU centennial

Italian Renaissance
Addition by Henry L. Ottenheimer
Paul Mueller, Chicago, IL; local superintendent, H. Gundlach