The Gypsum Mine of Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1880s-1943
Unless you’re from the Grand Rapids area, you may not hear much about the old gypsum mine. The mine is buried 85 feet underneath the city, with forgotten tunnels and mouse-like mazes that remain from the old days…..up to six miles of abandoned and deserted tunnels.
In 1827, an Indian trapper spotted an odd mineral near Plaster Creek. In 1838, Michigan geologist Douglass Houghton confirmed it was indeed gypsum. This was the beginning of Grand Rapids’ very first successful industry. An open quarry was dug in the 1880s, switching to shaft mining in 1907.
According to Fox 17 online, “two to three dozen men descended into the tunnels at a time, each mining eight to ten tons of rock per day. With wages set somewhere near 40 cents a ton, they made around $5 a day. But the mining company failed to keep pace with technology and continued to collect gypsum by hand until declaring bankruptcy in 1943.”
The property was purchased in 1946 and used as an over-the-ground warehouse facility. When it was realized that the underground tunnels remained at a steady 50 degrees all year around, it became, of sorts, a ‘refrigerator’. Produce, foods, alcohol, and important documents were stored in those 85-foot-deep tunnels for protection against the elements.
Currently, a number of the tunnels are still being used for storage, including keg after keg of beer and bourbon.
Where did all the gypsum come from? Fox 17 online states “More than 300 million years ago during the Mississippian Period, the land that would later hold Grand Rapids contained a shallow sea at the equator. But over time, the sea retreated and its salt water evaporated, depositing a thick layer of gypsum into a sedimentary package of rock called the Michigan Formation.”
The gallery below contains a few photos that take you 85 feet down below the city of Grand Rapids into the former gypsum mine.
The Gypsum Mine of Grand Rapids
MORE MICHIGAN MINES:
Michigan's First Mine: Jackson Mine, Negaunee
Abandoned Unknown Mine, Upper Peninsula
Abandoned Grand Haven Mine