First Things First: Defining Boundaries

For the majority of National Register nominated properties, defining a boundary isn’t too difficult. The historic home is defined by it’s lot (unless it’s just one of several historic homes—then perhaps the entire block/neighborhood). Same goes for most other architectural resources. But what of a landscape? Is it enough to only include a 100 year old farmstead (a few acres), or do you need to include the entirety of it’s farmland?

And what of the industrial landscape? A mine often includes a town, a surface plant (perhaps several of these), transportation features to connect the mine to the outside world, and ancillary areas to provide other raw materials such as fuel and food. How does one decide where to put the limits?

In the case of the Cliff, the original property extended 3x x miles, as per their initial mining lease of 1844 (though some of that extended into Lake Superior!). By 1849, the company purchased as area somewhat smaller than their original lease. This property expanded in the 1850’s to include timber lands a few miles to the south, along with some of the North American Mining Company’s lands immediately to the south of the mine workings (what became the “South Cliff”). To the north of the mine, several hundred acres were set aside for the formation of the North Cliff Mining Company, and so by 1860 the footprint of the Cliff was vastly different from 15 years previous.

Here can be seen the property of the Cliff, along with its timber lands to the south, the North Cliff lands to the north, and the American Mining Co. lands to the west (formerly the North American mine). The Cliff mine proper is found in Section 36, under the word COMPANY.

Here can be seen the property of the Cliff, along with its timber lands to the south, the North Cliff lands to the north, and the American Mining Co. lands to the west (formerly the North American mine). The Cliff mine proper is found in Section 36, under the word COMPANY.

For historical and practical purposes, nominating the entirety of the property shown above would be inappropriate. Although the company used the timber lands to the south, there likely isn’t enough documentary and physical evidence to support a designation of historic significance to these lands. The same goes for much of the land surrounding the mine proper. Mining activity was nearly all contained within Sec 36 and Sec 1, as was the location of Clifton. Therefore concentrating on this (much smaller) area is more appropriate for nomination.

Boundaries can be defined using legal description (Town/Range/Section), natural and man-made features (rivers, roads), or a combination of both. There are many natural and man-made features that could be useful in bounding the Cliff property. The west branch of the Eagle River for instance, or US41, the historic rail line, or even Cliff Drive could all be used. However, in the case of Cliff, legal description is most appropriate considering how lands in the area are managed currently. The Cliff is surrounded by timber lands, and these are organized by Town/Range/Section, so it makes sense to use the same organizing principle for the nomination.

I’ve decided draw a boundary around the property that consists of 480 acres. This is large enough to encompass all of the Cliff mine’s surface workings, the village of Clifton, both cemeteries, preserved historic roadways, and even Calumet & Hecla era workings located close to US 41. The property does NOT include the North Cliff property, nor does it include the North American mine’s workings found southwest of Cliff along Cliff Drive. These resources were omitted from inclusion since the Cliff divested itself of the former, and never operated at the location of the latter (though they did operate the North American workings in Clifton/South Cliff).

This boundary is a fraction of the historic property, BUT, it contains all the contributing resources that make the property historically significant.

This boundary is a fraction of the historic property, BUT, it contains all the contributing resources that make the property historically significant.

So the physical boundary of the Cliff mine property has been defined.* Now the next determination is the temporal boundary, i.e., what time period/s is/are being nominated?

*For now. These things can change as the research and writing begins.

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About Sean Gohman

Currently a PhD Degree seeking student in the Michigan Tech University's Industrial Heritage and Archaeology program.

One response to “First Things First: Defining Boundaries”

  1. Joe Dancy says :

    Awesome map

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