Houghton County is a county in the Upper Peninsula in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the population was 36,628. The county seat is Houghton. The County was set off in 1843, organized in 1846 and reorganized in 1848. It is named for geologist Douglass Houghton.
Houghton County is part of the Houghton Micropolitan Area, which also includes Keweenaw County. Part of the county is sometimes locally called Copper Island.
According to the 2010 census, the county has a total area of 1,501.5 square miles (3,889 km2), of which 1,009.1 square miles (2,614 km2) is land and 492.4 square miles (1,275 km2) is water.
The Portage Lift Bridge crosses Portage Lake, connecting Hancock and Houghton, Michigan, by crossing over Portage Lake, which is part of the river and canal system that crosses the entire peninsula. The Portage Lift Bridge is the world's heaviest and widest double-decked vertical lift bridge. Its center span "lifts" to provide 100 feet (30 m) of clearance for ships. Since rail traffic was discontinued in the Keweenaw, the lower deck is used to accommodate snowmobiletraffic in the winter. This is the only land based link between the north and south section of the Keweenaw peninsula, and is crucial.
- US 41
- FFH 16
National protected areas
- Keweenaw National Historical Park (part)
- Ottawa National Forest (part)
The 2010 United States Census indicates Houghton County had a population of 36,628. This is an increase of 612 people from 2000, a growth of 1.7%. In 2010 there were 14,232 households and 8,093 families in the county. The population density was 36 people per square mile (14/km²). There were 18,635 housing units at an average density of 18 per square mile (7/km²). 94.5% of the population were White, 2.9% Asian, 0.6% Native American, 0.5% Black or African American, 0.2% of some other race and 1.3% of two or more races. 1.1% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race). 32.5% were of Finnish, 14.0%German, 9.0% French, French Canadian orCajun, 6.2% English and 5.1% Irish ancestry.
There were 14,232 households out of which 23.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45% were married couples living together, 7.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.1% were non-families. 32.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.38 and the average family size was 3.01.
The age distribution of the county was as follows: 20.6% were under the age of 18, 20.6% from 18 to 24, 20.3% from 25 to 44, 23.6% from 45 to 64, and 15% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33.1 years. The population was 45.9% female and 54.1% male.
The median income for a household in the county was $34,625, and the median income for a family was $48,506. The per capita income income for the county was $18,556. About 12.6% of families and 22.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.7% of people under the age of 18 and 9.2% of those age 65 or over.
The county government operates the jail, maintains rural roads, operates the major local courts, keeps files of deeds and mortgages, maintains vital records, administers public health regulations, and participates with the state in the provision of welfare and other social services. The county board of commissioners controls the budget but has only limited authority to make laws or ordinances. In Michigan, most local government functions — police and fire, building and zoning, tax assessment, street maintenance, etc. — are the responsibility of individual cities and townships.
The Houghton County Courthouse “..stood high upon the bluff on Houghton Village facing North and pleasantly overlooking Portage Lake.” (Sawyer 110), and has been inducted in the U.S. Registry of Historic Districts and Buildings of the Upper Peninsula. Construction began in spring 1886. The building had its first addition to the north wing, the addition of a larger jail wing, in 1910, and that was the only renovation until the jail wing was condemned in 1961. A new jail was built in its present location, adjacent to the original. According to the Mining Gazette of July 25, 1886, “The materials used with the exception of the facing brick are the product of the Upper Peninsula”(p.3). Kathryn Eckert, in her Buildings of Michigan, wrote:
- “The courthouse is composed of the original structure, a rectangular block from which project central pavilions with parapeted dormers, a four-story tower, and north and west wing additions. The curbed mansard roof, the grouping of windows beneath red sandstone lintels connected by bands that encircle the structure, and the decorative entablature unite the composition. Porches supported with posts and Gothic-arch brackets…The interior is richly finished with wood; red, rich brown, and light yellowish brown floor tiles; ornamental plaster; and oak staircase; and stone fireplaces.” (p. 464)
The building section that was once the jail wing now house offices for various government offices such as the clerk of court.
Houghton County elected officials
- Prosecuting Attorney: Michael Makinen
- Sheriff: Brian McLean
- County Clerk/Register of Deeds: Mary Schoos
- County Treasurer: Kathleen Beattie
- Drain Commissioner: John Pekkala
- Mine Inspector: Murray Gillis
(information as of May 2013)
Cities, villages, and townships
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Houghton County, Michigan
- Robert T. Brown Nature Sanctuary