The Port of Calcite lies on the shores of Lake Huron in northeast Michigan just over 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) southeast of Rogers City. It is the site of the biggest limestone quarry and the biggest limestone processing plant in the world.
The Port of Calcite is about 52 nautical miles (47 kilometers or 29 miles by air) northwest of Alpena, the site of the world's biggest cement plant. The Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company created the limestone quarry and the Port of Calcite.
Geologist Henry Hindshaw recognized the commercial value of the limestone in Northern Michigan in the early 20th Century. Limestone is an essential raw material used in the production of cement, chemicals, and steel. The limestone surrounding the Port of Calcite is a particularly high-grade and pure underground deposit.
A limestone quarry and the Port of Calcite were soon developed at the site. Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company was formed in 1910, and it purchased a large tract of land along Lake Huron near the town of Rogers City.
Carl D. Bradley was hired as the first General Manager of the Michigan Limestone Calcite Plant and the Port of Calcite. He managed the construction of the processing plant, the powerhouse, a crusher, the conveyor distribution system as well as the Port of Calcite's harbor, ship loader, loading slip, office building, and repair shop. The first cargoes were shipped from the Port of Calcite in June 1912.
Between 1912 and 1917, Michigan Limestone built three revolutionary self-unloading ships: the SS Calcite, the SS W.F. White, and the SS Carl D. Bradley. The design of these self-unloaders has remained much the same since these first ships were built. Simply put, cargoes are moved on a system of conveyor belts from the cargo hold to the main deck where an unloading swing boom discharges materials to the dock. Today, self-unloaders carry limestone from the Port of Calcite to industrial ports throughout the Great Lakes.
Cargoes of stone were shipped to steel mills along the lower Great Lakes from the Port of Calcite to Detroit, Gary, Cleveland, and Chicago. United States Steel was the major customer for the limestone. Over time, the Port of Calcite cargoes expanded to serve other industries in agriculture, cement, construction, and chemicals.
In 1920, US Steel bought controlling interest in Michigan Limestone, and Carl Bradley became president of the company. He was also president Bradley Transportation, the fleet of self-unloading ships based in the Port of Calcite that Michigan Limestone used to deliver the stone. When Bradley passed away in 1928, US Steel took over 100% ownership of Michigan Limestone and Bradley Transportation, making them subsidiaries of US Steel.
In November 1958, the SS Carl D. Bradley went down in a storm, and only two crewmembers survived.
The quarry operation and the Port of Calcite are still a major employer for northern Michigan, although ownership has changed many times. Today, Carmeuse Lime & Stone owns the quarry and the Port of Calcite.
In the early 21st Century, about three thousand acres are still actively mined. Experts believe the quarry will produce for as much as an additional 100 years, and the Port of Calcite will continue to transport the limestone throughout the Great Lakes region.
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