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Window into Yesterday - “Official Residences”

A picture of the Trezona House in 2002 when it was operated as a bed and breakfast.

by David Kess for the Ely-Winton Historical Society

For many years the homes of the mining company officials were among the most imposing in town. No more officials as the mines shut down in 1967.

The truly imposing homes in and around Ely now are probably the million dollar+ ones out on lakeshores. But in the late 1890s and early 1900s, the mining companies built quite impressive homes for their company officials.

Probably the most impressive and also the newest is the house on Harvey St., across from the Washington School.

Built in the mid 1920s as the Zenith Mine Superintendent’s home, it shortly became known as the Ben Richards’ house. While the couple lived there for a number of years they only bought the house after the Zenith Mine closed in the 1960s. The Zenith Mine had been part of the Pickands Mather Co.

Always white in color with green shutters set in a large well manicured yard, the two and a half story home was regarded as one of Ely’s finest. Ben Richards came from Wisconsin.

The Richards tragically lost their daughter Sally in an airplane crash in Alaska in 1947. They were truly devastated. Their housekeeper thought Sally would be a perfect name for her granddaughter.

A block down from the Methodist Church on Washington St. is the house built for the Oliver Mining Co. superintendent, Bruce Strachan. He came from Ontario. It was built in the late 1890s, but the date is not certain. Such factual information was often included on land abstracts - documents that are seldom if ever used now. Thus it is often difficult to determine actual dates when houses were built.

The Pioneer superintendent’s house is situated on a large corner lot with large open porches. The rooms were large with high ceilings. All three houses had fireplaces and classic woodwork of the era. While they were still in the ownership of the mining companies, the yards were maintained and the houses regularly painted. Some of the occupants hired their own day help.

Across the street from the Oliver house stands the Trezona house, the home of Captain Charles Trezona.

Captain Trezona was born in Cornwall into a mining family. After coming to this country he eventually rose to the position of General Superintendent of several Range mines, including the Pioneer Mine in Ely. He was known to have been a rather stern man, but a fair one. That is, until 1904, when a number of miners associated themselves with the I.W.W. (Industrial Workers of the World) in an attempt to unionize the miners. Capt. Trezona would have none of this and tensions rose. Miners would lose their jobs. Period. Trezona was threatened with being run out of town and possibly hanged. By boarding the train to Winton, Capt. Trezona escaped any danger by getting on a buggy secretly back to Robinson. The Trezona Trail around Miner’s Lake bears witness to the influence the man had in town.

Last but not least is the building that once was the Pioneer Pay Office. It was a large building that was used as offices, record storage, a very large vault, and miscellaneous other rooms. Isabelle Koski and her daughter Tessie bought the building in the 1970s after the mines closed. They completely remodeled it into a residence. The stenographers’ office and an adjoining room were turned into a large kitchen and dining room. The woodwork was left untouched. It has had several owners since the Koski family.

The historical society display case in the Fine Arts Lobby at the community college will feature large colored pictures of each of these residences. Artifacts from some of them will also be included.

Any additional information you might have can be shared with the director of the historical society Paul Colwell. He is available on Tuesday through Friday from noon until 4 p.m. The phone is 218-365-3225.

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