Living in a university town that was once home to the first mineral boom in the United States leaves behind lots of interesting places… but not that many people.
I grew up in the suburbs, near Chicago, and I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest as well. But it was stumbling across these tiny outlets in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula a bit over a decade ago that I found home.
Hancock, Michigan is the smaller of two twin communities: across the bridge is Houghton, a city of about 7,000 (not counting the college students) that I’ll profile next time.
Hancock, though, is quieter, with a much smaller university and otherwise a collection of residential neighbourhoods surrounding a modest (and that’s being generous) downtown. But that downtown is great for a stroll, and while it may not have everything you need, there’s a lot to be found down these few streets.
I live on the west side of town, so I tend to walk towards the east. I usually pop out into downtown in front of the old middle/high school. Built in the early 20’s, it looks a lot like the old concept of a high school. It is now owned by the smaller university and will house its health sciences program in the near future.
The front of the old school turns into a sledding hill every winter, and the view isn’t too shabby, either.
Further east is the main part of downtown, where there are a few blocks with banks, restaurants, bars, the post office, and, well, a few other shops here and there. It isn’t by any means a hub of nightlife activity, but as someone who isn’t overly social, it suits me just fine. There are a couple of great places for @upchickadee and I to grab dinner.
The people here are proud of where they’re from, happy to live where they do. It isn’t a place where people are overwhelmingly friendly – there’s no real Minnesota Nice here – but they’re amiable and quiet and everyone stays out of each other’s business. Good friends are easy to come by, and it’s a safe place.
It’s also a reminder of the beauty of decay, that nothing we make is truly permanent, and that you can still have a sense of community without a collection of neon lights for chain restaurants in your downtown. We’re a place where family-owned shops are the norm, and we like it that way.
Come on by and I’ll introduce you. Really.